The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Telangana on Wednesday wrote to the Election Commission of India (ECI) seeking directions on what action has to be taken against a BJP leader for alleged data theft of voter details to micro-target them using SMSes ahead of a Legislative Council election in the state. The letter from the CEO of Telangana State Election Commission (TSEC) was sent after a complaint against BJP floor leader N Ramchander Rao filed by a Hyderabad-based open data researcher Srinivas Kodali. The researcher has also filed a complaint with the cybercrime police.
CEO Shashank Goel, speaking to the Times of India, said that his office was unable to figure out as to how a political party contestant got hold of voter phone numbers. "The candidate himself has to reveal it," the CEO was quoted as saying. The state CEO has written to the ECI seeking directions on whether such details can be provided to the contestant. Action will be taken based on the ECIs response, the officer said.
Voters who had registered from Rangareddy, Hyderabad and Mahabubnagar districts, the graduates’ constituency of Telangana Legislative Council, had received text messages from the BJP leader. The leader informed the voter about their successful enrollment in the freshly prepared electoral rolls and sought support at the polls. The draft electoral rolls for the Member of Legislative Council polls had only been released on December 8 and the micro targeted text messages began arriving around a week later.
Meanwhile, Ramchander Rao told the media that the data was collected by BJP party and RSS workers and claimed that consent was taken at the time of data collection. Speaking to TNM earlier Srinivas had said, “The BJP leader claims in the media that he had taken consent before sending out the text messages. Personally, I haven’t given anyone my consent.”