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Chemically treated ballots: 1971's post poll story

The 1971 story was not too different when allegations were raised that ballot papers were chemically treated and votes marked in favour of Congress using invisible ink that became visible 72 hours! (ANI file photo)

Elections bring bizarre allegations, especially from those who have lost.

In 1971, allegations were raised that ballot papers were chemically treated and votes were marked in favour of the Congress using invisible ink which became visible after 72 hours.

A number of election petitions made way to the Delhi, Mysore, Bombay and Allahabad High Courts among others and even reached the Supreme Court.

They were thrown out after imposing costs on the petitioners.

The then chief election commissioner S P Sen-Varma details the allegations, which he called "bogus", in a section Unreason in Election Politics in his detailed account of the 1971 elections, which saw the triumph of Indira Gandhi against her detractors after the split in Congress.

"Those who made this mischievous allegation several days after the declaration of the results wanted perhaps to wreck the Constitution of India and to bring about political chaos in the whole country and thereby to bring to an end to democracy itself in this land," Sen-Varma wrote.

"One shudders to think about the nefarious designs of the persons who conceived this. They have no love for the country or for the welfare or good of the people of this country. To serve their own interests they did not hesitate to bring about chaos, confusion and revolution in this country," he added.

Days after the results were declared, he recorded, this story gained currency in certain political quarters that a certain percentage of ballot papers in 200-250 seats were chemically treated.

Initially, the Election Commission remained silent about "wild and fantastic stories", Sen-Varma said adding that if this was done in 200-250 seats, it would have involved 12-crore voters and the entire election machinery there.

Seeking to demolish the allegation, he asked if the ballot papers were chemically treated, who supplied the chemicals and whether trained personnel were required to do the job?

"We should not forget in this connection that every paper mill in the country has, as every workshop and factory in the country has, now strong workers' unions. Was it possible that such a colossal conspiracy to manipulate elections in this nefarious manner should escape the notice of the hundreds and thousands of workers of the paper mills, especially when the workers are now extremely vigilant about the activities of the management?" he wrote.

"In the government presses there are strong employees' unions owing allegiance to different political parties. Could it have been kept secret from their knowledge? Or were all of them, in hundreds and thousands, bribed by offer of illegal gratification?" he added.

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