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Operation in Bengaluru Flat Was to Locate and Pressure ‘Vulnerable’ Voters Through Middlemen, Says Poll Panel

Representative image

Representative image

Karnataka’s chief electoral officer Sanjiv Kumar said that the poll panel was initially worried that someone had broken into the system and created fake ID cards, but that was not the case.

Bengaluru: The Election Commission on Wednesday said that the material seized from a flat in Rajarajeshwari Nagar seat in Bengaluru gives an indication of a planned work over a period of time to survey and locate vulnerable electors and induce them through middlemen.

Revealing the details of what all was found in the flat, the poll panel said that apart from 9,896 voter ID cards, 6,342 voter application acknowledgement receipt with BBMP seals and another 20,700 acknowledgement receipts without BBMP seals were also found. The voter ID cards found appeared to be genuine and there is no evidence to suggest that they were fake, the EC said.

“Also, detailed survey formats with family number names, electricity meter numbers, mobile details, caste, voter ID, Aadhar ID, Widow ID, Old age ID, BPL card details, etc along with photographs of the houses were found from the spot. The name of the surveyors, phone numbers and date of survey is available on the format,” the EC said in a brief note.

Karnataka’s chief electoral officer Sanjiv Kumar said a Deputy Election Commissioner rank official was being rushed from the national capital to Bengaluru for a detailed probe. Maintaining that prima facie the I-cards looked genuine, he said only a thorough inquiry will bring out the truth.

Kumar said that the poll panel was initially worried that someone had broken into the system and created fake ID cards, but that was not the case. “We have found that that's not what happened. Prima facie there has been an attempt to influence voters,” he said.

The discovery from the flat has off a war of words between the Congress and BJP, which demanded countermanding of the poll for the seat, claiming the Congress was behind the racket, a charge the latter dismissed as a "lie".

With just three days left before Karnataka goes to poll, the BJP and Congress, the two main contenders for power, went after each other's jugular, each claiming the flat belonged to a woman associated with the rival party.

A BJP delegation, which included union ministers J P Nadda, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Smriti Irani among others, moved the commission saying that scrapping the poll in the constituency was necessary to "reinstate people's faith" in the electoral process.

Irani said the issue was not only important for the BJP but also the commission as voter ID cards are seen an evidence of people's faith in the electoral process. The delegation demanded a thorough probe into the matter to find out if similar methods were used in more constituencies. The assembly polls are due on May 12.

Addressing a press conference, Union minister Prakash Javadekar claimed Congress candidate and sitting MLA Munirathna Naidu was behind the alleged racket, which was exposed by BJP worker Rakesh.

Congress spokesman Rajdeep Singh Surjawala hit right back, alleging that the flat owner Manjula Nanjamari and Rakesh had BJP connections and both contested Bengaluru Municipal Corporation elections on the tickets of the saffron party.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was campaigning in Karnataka, attacked the Congress over adopting such tactics to win the election.

"Thousands of voter ID cards were seized, 1 lakh voters slips were seized in just one place. They must have planned such games in 40-50 constituencies. You (voters) be alert. Such sin cannot be allowed during the celebration of democracy (polls)," he told elections rallies.

Javadekar said thousands of fake cards with hologram, lamination machines, and computers were seized by police after BJP workers informed it about the racket.

"This is the philosophy of the Congress....if voters do not vote for you, create fake voters," he said, claiming a "fake voter ID printing factory" was being run in Manjula's flat. Manjula, he said, was once associated with the BJP but was now with the Congress, and demanded her immediate arrest.

The Congress hit back with a vengeance, claiming BJP was making such allegations because it was aware of its imminent defeat.

"They are making such allegations because of their imminent defeat, and after their workers and leaders were caught red-handed influencing voters in collating and collecting fake ID cards in order to influence the results of the elections," Surjewala told reporters.

He said the ID cards and equipment were not recovered from the flat by the police but BJP workers. The flat, he said, belonged to a BJP worker. "Prakash Javadekar had the audacity to lie, mislead the people of Karnataka by saying Manjula does not belong to the BJP. She is a former BJP corporator and Rakesh also contested corporation election on BJP ticket in 2015," he said.

"Javadekar runs a factory of lies. Rakesh was a tenant of flat No. 115 and its is mentioned in the list of BJP candidates who contested the corporation elections. Manjula is a former BJP corporator from Jalahalli," he said, citing newspaper reports.

While some TV news channels claimed Rakesh was Manjula's son, and others said she was his adoptive mother, the women at the centre of the controversy insisted they were relatives but had "no contact".