The row over the 9,000-odd voter identity cards found at a house in Bengaluru’s Rajarajeshwarinagar has resulted in political mudslinging, with major parties blaming each other of the crime. On Wednesday, the Election Commission clarified that the case is still under investigation and that no clear conclusions can be made at this stage.
On Wednesday, a day after the identity cards were seized, the Chief Election Officer of Karnataka Sanjiv Kumar confirmed to the media that two persons were arrested in connection with the seizure of the voter cards. The two arrested have reportedly been identified as Raghu and Venkatesh. However, Sanjiv Kumar refused to divulge information about the political affiliation of the two accused.
The police suspect that this was a case of cash for votes. “The ID cards belonged to people living in slums. The cards of members of each slum were stacked up with the name of one person on each stack along with their phone numbers of said people. We suspect that they had taken the voters IDs for giving cash,” the CEO said.
Sanjiv Kumar also said that several survey forms were found along with pan cards, drivers licences, phone numbers and details of pension plans.
“IDs were systematically collected from various slums. Their house photos were also collected. The persons involved were preying on vulnerable people. This is a very serious matter. Two people have been arrested and more arrests will be made soon,” he added.
Initially, officials thought that their website was being hacked. “That’s why we went to the spot immediately. That was found to be untrue. No one had hacked into our system,” he said.
The CEO said that that a report by observers has been sent to the Election Commission of India, and the Deputy Election Commissioner is coming to Karnataka to take stock of the situation.
Who are Manjula, Rakesh and Sridhar?
On Tuesday, the Election Commission said that the house belonged to a woman named Manjula, who had rented it out to her relative Rakesh.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Manjula said, “I was a BJP corporator between 1997 and 2007. I was a homemaker before that and BJP had offered to support me for the BBMP elections,” she said.
“The tenants of the house are Rangaraju and Rekha, not Rakesh (the Congress alleges that Rakesh is Manjula’s son). These two rented the house on April 5 saying they were going to set up an office,” she added.
However, a man named Sridhar spoke to the media on Wednesday, claiming that he is Manjula’s son. "The Congress is saying that Manjula’s son had rented the house. I am the only son of Manjula Nanjamari. Rakesh is my mother's nephew's son and he is not connected to the Park View apartment in anyway as it is being portrayed in the media,” Sridhar said.
BJP blames Congress
BJP leader and Union Minister Prakash Javadekar on Wednesday alleged that Congress candidate and incumbent MLA of Rajarajeshwarinagar, Munirathna Naidu, was behind the collection of voter ID cards.
“The BJP worker Rakesh exposed this racket. This is the philosophy of the Congress. If voters do not vote for you, create fake voters,” Javadekar said.
The party has demanded an investigation by cyber security agencies and the immediate arrest of Manjula for her alleged involvement in the racket.
However, Sridhar, also said that his mother is a BJP worker. “I don’t know why Prakash Javadekar said that but my mother, Rakesh and I are BJP workers,” he said.
A BJP delegation of Union Ministers Smriti Irani, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, JP Nadda and Dharmendra Pradhan met the Election Commission officials at 6 pm on Wednesday, stating that the Congress was indulging in malpractices.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was addressing a public meeting in Belagavi, said that the creation of fake voter IDs was a tactic of the Congress. “Making multiple fake voter ID cards to win elections is the tactic of Congress, people should never forgive such party. Fearing a crushing defeat, Congress is indulging in all kinds of malpractices,” he said.
Congress points fingers at BJP
Congress says that the entire incident was orchestrated by the BJP and that the EC and the police arrived at the house based on information from the BJP. When they arrived, several workers of different parties were already at the spot.
“Rakesh, former BJP corporator Manjula’s son, who was renting the house says he raided the place on a gut feeling. The BJP people who raided a flat, belongs to a BJP leader and the tenant is also a BJP worker,” Randeep Singh Surjewala said.
The Congress has demanded action against the BJP and accused the BJP-led Union government of enacting a "midnight drama".
A Congress delegation, led by veteran leader Anand Sharma, met the EC officials in New Delhi and alleged that the BJP was indulging in serious malpractice of election norms.