PM seeks votes, but fails to exercise franchise

Missing in action

 Both Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur are enrolled as voters in the Dispur Legislative Assembly constituency in the northeastern state. They, however, did not go to exercise their franchise, triggering criticism from the Congress’ principal adversaries in the state, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Dispur is one of Assam’s 64 Assembly constituencies that went to the polls on Monday. Polling for 62 of the total 126 seats in the state Assembly was held on April 4.

Singh has been a member of the Rajya Sabha from Assam since 1991. He and Kaur are respectively the 721st and 722nd voters in the constituency’s 175th polling station at the Dispur Government Higher Secondary School.

Returning Officer in Kamrup (Metro) district K Balaji said that neither the prime minister nor his wife had asked for postal ballots to cast vote under Clause 20 (4) of the Representation of the People Act.

“There was no request from the prime minister or his office within the stipulated time, so there was no question of his exercising his franchise through postal ballot,” said Balaji. “The prime minister says that Assam is home for him. If it is true, why did not he take the pain to come to cast his vote? If the prime minister himself doesn’t cast his vote, his faith in democracy comes under questions,” said AGP Vice-President Lachit Bordoloi.

This is not the first time that the prime minister skipped voting in Assam. Singh’s absence in the polling station had first come under media-glare during the polling for the state Assembly elections in 2006, just two years after he had taken over as the prime minister.
This time, too, the prime minister addressed four election rallies in the State and urged people to vote for the Congress. He is scheduled to leave for China and Kazakhstan early on Tuesday.

In 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Singh and Kaur, however, had cast their votes in Dispur. “He must have been busy in Delhi and that is why could not come,” said Hemoprava Saikia,  wife of former chief minister Hiteshwar Saikia.

Singh is a “tenant” of Saikias. His permanent residential address—at least officially—is a flat in Saikia’s house at Nandan Nagar at Sarumataria locality in Guwahati.

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