Even as the recovery of nearly 10,000 voter identity cards from an apartment in Rajarajeshwari Nagar constituency of West Bengaluru on Tuesday night triggered a political blame game, the Election Commission, according to sources, is unlikely to accept the BJP’s demand for countermanding polls in the area.
The voter ID cards, along with copying machines, cash and other documents were seized from a house in ‘SLV Park View Apartments’, following a clash between some people, suspected to be affiliated to political parties, in the apartment on Tuesday evening. A police case was registered and two persons were arrested.
Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer Sanjeev Kumar said the voter ID cards were genuine cards, belonging to people from R R Nagar constituency. “Random verification shows they are genuine cards,’’ he said. “There is no evidence of bogus cards as some people have alleged. They have been collected for some purpose and further investigations will reveal the purpose. Prima facie, it seems like an effort to influence voters. It can be inferred as efforts to bribe for votes,’’ he said.
“Some visiting cards and a couple of pamphlets of a political party were found, but we cannot link the operations in the flat to any political party on this basis alone,’’ he said.
The BJP claimed the Congress was behind the racket, while the Congress accused the BJP of enacting a “fake, concocted and fabricated midnight drama” to impede free and fair elections. Delegations of both the parties met Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) O P Rawat and Election Commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sunil Arora in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Close to 20,000 fake Voters ID card recovered from @INCIndia‘s Raja Rajeshwari Nagar constituency candidate Muniratna.
— BJP Karnataka (@BJP4Karnataka) May 8, 2018
“The BJP demands countermanding of elections in AC 154 Raja Rajeshwari Nagar in light of latest revelations of tens of thousands of fake voter ID and empty packets of hard currency. This is Congress conspiracy to rig election in face of their imminent defeat,’’ union minister and BJP in-charge of Karnataka, Prakash Javadekar, tweeted on Tuesday night.
Raising the issue at an election rally on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “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).”
The Congress said the flat was first raided by a “bunch of private persons including BJP candidate and BJP workers”, and not by the CEO or the police. The party handed over two video clips to the EC to back its claim. It also claimed that the flat owners were associated with the BJP as they both had contested the municipal polls as BJP candidates.
“In a flat owned by a Former BJP Corporator, in a flat rented out to BJP Corporator candidate, how did 10,000 voter IDs come into being?
— Karnataka Congress (@INCKarnataka) May 9, 2018
In a memorandum to the EC, the Congress alleged that the BJP candidate planted Congress campaign material in the flat. “Consequent to this, Union Ministers Prakash Javadekar and Ananth Kumar enacted a midnight drama to hurl allegations against the Congress party. BJP also submitted a complaint… (the) falsehood of BJP’s allegations now stands exposed. Manjula Nanjamuri, who is the owner of the flat, is a former BJP corporator and a BJP leader from Jalahalli,” it said, referring to some media reports.
While the EC sent Deputy Election Commissioner Chandra Bhushan Kumar to Karnataka for an inquiry, sources in the poll panel told The Indian Express that it was not convinced that the poll atmosphere has been vitiated and, therefore, needs countermanding of elections.
“Yes, voter cards have been recovered, but EC has notified 14 documents that can be used for identification at the time of casting vote. Moreover, no one can get a voter slip unless they have been identified on the voter list at the booth, which also carries the voter’s photograph. So where is the question of vitiation,” said a senior EC official who did not want to be identified.