Electorates in Delhi: What data tells us about electoral rolls and misrepresentation

By Bhanu Joshi, Research Assistant at CPR

Electorates are central to any election. Parity in the electoral units (constituencies) is a vital component in defining how representative and, to a certain extent, how fair the elections would be. This draws from democracy’s fundamental tenet of “one man- one vote”; a principle articulated in the framing of India’s constitution.[i]

Preceding the Delhi elections in 2015, Janagraaha came up with a report which was widely published in The Hindu & Scroll on some of the discrepancies in the electoral rolls and effectively electoral misrepresentation in the form of omissions or deletions of electoral rolls in Delhi.[ii] While this reportage, principally around an election, brought around the necessary publicity, the larger process of voter registration continues to be an issue that needs deliberation.

Delhi has seven parliamentary constituencies which neatly fit ten assembly constituencies in them. Post the delimitation exercise, in which 19 old constituencies made way for new constituencies, Delhi has had five elections.[iii] These are the Vidhan Sabha polls in 2008, 2013 and 2015 and the Lok Sabha polls in 2009 and 2014.Comparing increase in electorate from 2008 to 2015 as shown in Table-1, we find an increase from 1.07 crore to 1.3 crore.[iv] But this increase, as expected, has not been uniform either spatially across the city-state or even across the seven year time period.

Table 1- Number of Electors in Delhi (in lakhs)
Assembly Elections Parliament Elections Assembly Elections Parliament Elections Assembly Elections
Parliamentary Constituencies December 2008 April 2009 December 2013 April 2014 February 2015
Chandani Chowk 13.77 14.14 13.83 14.47                14.74
East Delhi 15.45 16.05 17.20 18.30                18.81
New Delhi 13.20 13.73 13.87 14.90                15.24
North East Delhi 16.20 16.77 18.48 19.58                20.28
North West Delhi (SC) 17.31 17.98 20.72 21.94                22.55
South Delhi 14.91 15.42 16.20 17.53                18.20
West Delhi 16.39 16.88 19.02 20.39                21.04
Total Electorate 107.23 110.97 119.32 127.11                130.85
Increase 3.74 8.35 7.79                  3.74
Number in Lakhs. Source: Election Commission of India

There was an addition of 8.35 lakh voters in the Vidhan Sabha elections held in December 2013 from the previous Lok Sabha elections of 2009. Adding the 3.74 lakh voters increased between the 2009 Lok Sabha polls & 2008 Vidhan Sabha polls, the net increase from ’08 to ’13 Vidhan Sabha elections was 12.09 lakh voters. Curiously though, between December 2013 to April 2014, Delhi added 7.79 lakh voters to its electoral list. Effectively, Delhi’s electorate increase by 6.1% in four months intervening the ’13 Vidhan Sabha & ’14 Lok Sabha polls, compared to an increase of 7% over five years.

This increase in electorate over the years in parliamentary constituencies is shown in Figure 1 where South Delhi, New Delhi & Chandni Chowk parliamentary constituencies saw more increase from Dec 13 to April 2014 than the increase between the last four years. As is visible from Figure 1 & Table 2 various constituencies saw decrease in electorates between 2009-2014 while an overwhelming increase the December 2013 to April 2014.


Table 2 – Increase/Decrease in electorate in few constituencies
Parliamentary Constituencies AC Name AC No. Type Dec 2008-Dec 2013 Dec 2013-April 2014 April 2014-Feb 2015
New Delhi Greater Kailash 50 GEN -2% 8% 2%
New Delhi Kasturba Nagar 42 GEN -6% 6% 2%
New Delhi Malviya Nagar 43 GEN 4% 8% 2%
New Delhi Moti Nagar 25 GEN 5% 7% 2%
New Delhi New Delhi 40 GEN -9% 7% 2%
New Delhi R K Puram 44 GEN 5% 8% 2%
North East Delhi Karawal Nagar 70 GEN 6% 8% 5%
South Delhi Ambedkar Nagar 48 SC 1% 7% 3%
South Delhi Badarpur 53 GEN 3% 11% 7%
South Delhi Kalkaji 51 GEN 0% 8% 3%
South Delhi Mehrauli 45 GEN 8% 11% 1%
South Delhi Sangam Vihar 49 GEN -5% 8% 5%
South Delhi Tughlakabad 52 GEN -8% 8% 5%
West Delhi Janakpuri 30 GEN 7% 7% 2%
West Delhi Tilak Nagar 29 GEN -3% 6% 2%

Source: Election Commission of India

 The spatial growth of electorates between three periods 2008-2013, 2013 -2014 and 2014-2015 as mapped on the assembly map for Delhi [v] show a trend of growth in outer areas of Delhi. The movement of rising electorates from Delhi’s west to east is open to interpretation but two questions need further investigation.

First is the question of increased electorates; 6% increase in five months, compared to 7% increase in five years. In numbers, Delhi added 8, 35,215 voters from 2009-13 and 7,79,095 in five months. There are two plausible explanations for this increase. One of which attributes the increased registration as a manifestation of voter awareness and enthusiasm before the charged Lok Sabha polls and second, that the election commission (CEO Delhi) did a good job at enrolling “all voters” in a constituency. The other possibility could be migration or intercity movement of its residents but in absence of migration numbers or database on movement, anything substantial cannot be concluded. Notwithstanding the limitations, some questions remain. For instance, the Chandni Chowk PC (Click “Filter” to see electorate change over years aggregated at PCs) has ten ACs of which six saw a decline in electorates between 2008-13 but saw an equal or more electorate rise in the period December 2013- April 2014. Similarly in the South Delhi PC, we find high electorate growth in Sangam Vihar, Tughlakabad and Badarpur ACs between 2013-14 but had a negative growth from 2008-13. What is of interest is that growth in 2008-13 remains higher than the registrations made in the last one year.

Note: This is a dynamic graphic. Click ‘Parliamentary Constituencies’ or ‘ AC name’ to see registrations by Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies respectively. 

Second is the veracity and the way in which electoral rolls are prepared? The basic law governing voter registration in India is the Representation of People Act, 1950 and the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960. The preparation and revision of Electoral Roll is carried out under this framework of law by the ECI. Registration process in India is a continuous process. No separate Electoral Roll for Parliamentary Constituency (PC) is maintained as that PC consists of Electoral Rolls for all its ACs. Electoral Rolls are organized as geographically defined Parts, which are further organized into Sections and households. Each Part has an identified Polling Station where electors cast their votes on the poll day.[vi] The electoral roll, unless otherwise directed by the Election Commission, is revised before every general election to the House of People or to the Legislative Assembly of State or before each bye -election (Section 21 of RP Act, 1950. Generally, the electoral roll is revised every year on the basis of 1st day of January as qualifying date [Section 14(b) of RP Act, 1950].

There are two ways in which the electoral rolls are updated: Intensive Revision & Summary Revision. Intensive revision involves fresh revision without reference to earlier existing Roll wherein the Enumerator/BLO visits house to house and then prepares the Draft Roll and published to invite claims/objections and after disposal of claims, Final Roll is published. Summary Revision is done every year except if intensive revision is ordered, wherein existing rolls are published as draft inviting claims and objections. No household survey takes place and the designated officers sit at polling stations to receive claims and objections. After disposal of claims, Final Rolls are published. For the Delhi polls, Intensive Revision was conducted in 2008 after which all electoral rolls have been Summary Revision.[vii]

What this means is that no household survey was done post 2008 elections and hence only those who came and registered their names with the ECI got added. At the same time, lack of incentives or mechanisms for deletion of names might have led to the increased/inflated electoral rolls. The persons who have become ineligible to be a voter, or who have changed their residences from one place to another or from one constituency to another, and who are dead should have been excluded from the revised and updated electoral roll by proper door-to-door enumeration and verification. (Table-3) which didn’t happen as the Janagraaha study points, is the cause of most errors.

FAQs on Electoral List Update as mentioned on the manual for Returning Officers (ROs)
If an ordinarily resident person is not included in the electoral roll, what is to be done in such a case? First of all, check the standards specified (qualification and disqualification) for being an elector in his case.• If found eligible, take an application from him in Form – 6.•Provide an acknowledgement receipt for the application received in Form 6, with your signature, to the applicant.• Submit the application received in Form 6 to the ERO for passing of necessary orders 
What action is to be taken if the name of a person who is dead, is included in the electoral roll? If some other family member of that person resides in that area, the death of the concerned person should be confirmed from him.•After confirmation, an objection in Form 7 may be taken from such member of the family of the deceased who is registered as an elector in that Part.• As a proof of death of the elector, a photocopy of the death certificate or the medical report may be obtained and attached with the Form• The objection so received in Form 7 and the attached photocopy of the proof of     death of the elector should be submitted to the ERO for passing of necessary orders. 
If name of a person who is temporarily not residing in that part area i.e. he is temporarily absent, is included in the roll would his name be removed from the electoral roll? No. The names of the electors absent temporarily are not to be removed from the electoral roll, but it should be necessarily confirmed that they are absent only temporarily and have not gone away permanently from that Part area
What is to be done in case of change of residence of an elector? First of all, it should be checked whether, due to change of earlier residence, the new residence of the elector falls within the same Assembly Constituency or out of it.• If the new residence of the elector is within the same AC then the elector shall apply in Form 8A to the ERO for transposition of the entry. The ERO will hold necessary enquiries and take decision in accordance with rules.• If due to change of residence of the elector, the new place of residence falls out of the previous AC, then the applicant would apply in Form 6 to the ERO having jurisdiction over his new place of residence. In the Form, he shall also mention the details regarding his earlier registration.• The ERO having jurisdiction over the AC within which the new residence of the applicant falls, shall, after necessary enquiries, register the elector in the new constituency and shall in form the ERO of the earlier AC of the elector to delete his name from the electoral roll of the earlier constituency. 


So who registers them in the voter’s list? Apart from the voters coming to ECI for addition or deletion of votes, it is the Booth Level Agents (BLAs) who are appointed by the political parties under the direction of Election Commission, to help BLOs in Electoral Roll Management. The role of BLAs as defined on the ECI’s presentation to train BLOs and others says[viii]:

  • “Assists people in filing claim/objection properly
  • Remains present during the campaigns and help BLOs
  • Verifies and conducts survey of the dead and shifted electors
  • Understands and scrutinizes the electoral roll and points out corrections, if any, during meeting with BLO
  • Helps BLO in continuous updating of the electoral roll”

Thus if only the political parties take steps to enrol voters in case the election commission doesn’t go for an Intensive Revision the chances of enrolment of names of persons, or even fictitious names which could later be used by it for casting bogus votes or impersonation can go up.



[i] “In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value” Friday, the 25th November, 1949 delivered in the House by Dr. BR Ambedkar.Constituent Assembly Debates Official Report, 9.12.1946-24.1.1950. (1966). New Delhi: Lok Sabha Secretariat.

[ii] Rukmini, S. (2015, January 29). One-third of Delhi voters untraceable: Survey. Retrieved February 3, 2015, from http://www.thehindu.com/elections/delhi2015/onethird-of-delhi-voters-untraceable-survey/article6830740.ece and Saumya, T. (2015, January 31). Scroll.in – News. Politics. Culture. Retrieved February 3, 2015, from http://scroll.in/article/703106/one-in-four-delhi-voter-names-needs-deletion

[iii] Schedule – XXXI NCT of Delhi. (2008). In Delimitation of Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies Order (p. 549). New Delhi: Nirvachan Sadan.

[iv] However, Delhi has added nearly 2.24 lakh voters between January 5, when the final rolls for 2015 were published, and January 21, the last day of nomination for the February 7 assembly poll. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/elections/delhi-elections-2015/top-stories/Delhi-elections-2015-Delhis-voters-list-swells-by-2-24-lakh-as-final-rolls-are-published/articleshow/46060522.cms

[v] Susewind, R. (2014). GIS shapefiles for India’s parliamentary and assembly constituencies including polling booth localities . Bielefeld University. doi:10.4119/unibi/2674065.

[vi] http://eci.nic.in/eci_main/ElectoralLaws/HandBooks/Training%20Module-ECI.pdf

[vii] Check: http://www.ceodelhi.gov.in/WriteReadData/AssemblyConstituency/AC01/A0010001.pdf. where Basic roll of intensive revision, 2008 integrated with all supplements preceding special summary revision, 2015

[viii] Presentation titled “E-Roll Session-2 SLMT TRG 8.05.2013” accessed from ECI website: http://eci.nic.in/iiidem/TM/E-Roll%20Session-2%20SLMT%20TRG%208.05.2013.ppt.



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