Hyderabad intellectuals urge ECI action against BJP’s Madhavi Latha over ‘intimidation of voters’

On Monday, the day of polling, Madhavi Latha was seen checking the identification of burqa-clad women by asking them to lift their veils

By Kedar Nadella  Published on  14 May 2024 4:04 PM GMT
Hyderabad intellectuals urge ECI action against BJP’s Madhavi Latha over ‘intimidation of voters’

Hyderabad: Members of a civil society organisation Telangana for Peace and Unity (TPU) filed a complaint with the Telangana chief electoral officer against BJP Hyderabad MP candidate Madhavi Latha for ‘intimidation of voters and disrupting harmony at polling booths.’

On Monday, the day of polling for the Telangana Lok Sabha elections, Madhavi Latha was seen checking the identification of burqa-clad women by asking them to lift their veils, leading to a police case against her at the Malakpet police station. Latha was also seen moving from one polling station to another to monitor voting progress.

Madhavi's actions impacted voter turnout

In multiple videos featuring the BJP MP candidate that went viral on the morning of polling, Madhavi was seen questioning the identities of Muslim women at a polling station by asking a voter ‘this says you are 38 (age), remove it (burqa)’ and ‘doosra Aadhaar card hai? (do you have another Aadhaar card?)’.

“Due to such behaviour, the voter turnout of Muslim women voters was potentially adversely impacted for the rest of the day, even as the Election Commission had been putting out campaigns to improve turnout,” activists said in a letter to the CEO.

“Madhavi is reported to have justified her actions by stating, ‘I am a candidate. As per law, the candidate has the right to check the ID cards without the facemasks. I am not a man, I am a woman and with a lot of humbleness, I have only requested them - can I please see and verify with the ID cards? If somebody wants to make a big issue out of it, that means they are scared',” they said.

Rules broken by BJP candidate

However, the activists stated that Madhavi’s actions are against the Code of Conduct Rules, 1961, under the Representation of People Act, 1951, which states that the presiding officer or an authorised poll officer can only check the identities of voters.

“Further, the presiding officer in sub-rule (1) is specifically empowered to employ such persons at polling stations to help in the identification of electors. Per Rule 36, it is only the polling agent who may challenge the identity of a person claiming to be a particular voter, in a manner set out in the rule. The ‘safeguards against personation’ provided in Rule 37 are also to be carried out by the presiding officer or the polling officer. Thus, there is no justification in law, whatsoever, for Madhavi Latha to intimidate voters, demand that they unveil themselves, take their ID cards or ask personal questions of their personal information to establish their identities,” they said in the letter.

They also mentioned that ‘Madhavi Latha has also committed the offence of disorderly conduct which is punishable under Section 131 of the RP Act, 1951 for acting in a disorderly manner at the polling station and causing annoyance to persons visiting the polling stations.’

“Further, she forced the women to unveil themselves under the garb of ‘checking their identities’, in front of other men as well, despite their wishes, which is an intrusion upon the privacy of the women, punishable under Section 509 IPC,” the letter said.

‘Muslim women specifically targeted’

Attaching various news reports that covered Madhavi’s actions on Monday, the TPU members said that ‘it is evident that Madhavi Latha was only targeting Muslim women who were wearing their burqas and had their headscarves, which was clearly intentioned not only to disrupt the maintenance of communal harmony, punishable per Section 153A(1)(b) IPC, but also committed a deliberate and malicious act to outrage the religious feelings of the Muslim women punishable under Section 295A.'

They requested the police and the Election Commission of India (ECI) to consider the points and take immediate action against Madhavi and the BJP, while also including the alleged poll violations by the BJP MP candidate during her campaign in the run-up to the elections.

The letter was signed by 44 individuals which includes prominent public intellectuals, academics, social activists and citizens in Hyderabad such as Professor Padmaja Shaw, Gogu Shyamala, SQ Masood and others.

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