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Karnataka Chief Minister engaging in corrupt electoral practice, alleges Congress

BENGALURU: The Congress in Karnataka on Thursday demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, alleging he is directly responsible for a corrupt electoral practice by assigning a private entity to collect door-to-door voter information.

Congress general secretary and the party’s Karnataka in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala said at a press conference here that Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, the civic agency, authorised a private firm in August to carry out a door-to-door survey of voters ‘free of cost’ who gathered information about their gender, mother tongue, collected voter ID and Aadhaar details.

Alleging that “the chief minister was the conduit of the electoral fraud,” he said, “there has to be an FIR against Basavaraj Bommai and he should be arrested.”

The cache of data was not fed into the Garuda application of the government but into an application ‘Digital Sameeksha’ of the private firm, Surjewala charged.

The firm also appointed hundreds of Booth Level Officers (BLO), which technically should be a government appointed persons, said Surjewala, adding that these BLOs were also given identity cards resembling as if they are government employees.

“We want to know who permitted a private entity to conduct the survey on behalf of the BBMP? Who recommended the government to give such contract to a private entity and why the antecedents of the contractor was not checked?” Surjewala said.

Later, Siddaramaiah, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president DK Shivakumar and other leaders met Bengaluru City Police Commissioner CK Pratap Reddy, and lodged a formal complaint.

Bommai denies charge
Chief Minister Bommai denied the allegation and termed it baseless.

“The Congress has gone bankrupt on ideas. It is a matter between the Election Commission, BBMP and the NGO. If the NGO has misused its position an enquiry will be carried out and action will be initiated. I will ensure that the entire episode is investigated,” he told reporters.

“These are all baseless allegations and they do not have substantial evidence to support their allegations. We are not shying away from any inquiry. I have asked the BBMP commissioner to file a case,” he added.

Meanwhile, Karnataka’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Manoj Kumar Meena directed the District Electoral Officer to probe the alleged incident in which the NGO, Chilume Educational Cultural and Rural Development Institute, impersonated government officials and went door-to-door to collect personal data of voters.

“If any institution or an individual is found violating any laws, action will be taken accordingly,” he said in a statement.

Meena said that the DEO had not granted permission for the survey. The permission granted to create awareness among the electorate was withdrawn after receiving a complaint against the NGO. The CEO added that the Election Returning Officer at the Mahadevapura Assembly constituency had complained to the Whitefield police.

Breach of privacy
Randeep Singh Surjewala termed the BBMP granting permission to the NGO to launch a special awareness drive “shocking”.

“Shockingly, a private entity with zero experience and awareness was granted permission to conduct Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP),” the Rajya Sabha MP said in a media briefing.

“Interestingly, this private entity had approached the BBMP seeking permission to carry out the SVEEP activity. Without publishing any advertisement on SVEEP, the BBMP gave its approval to Chilume within 48 hours of receiving its application. This private entity also owns another firm, DAP Hombale,” Surjewala pointed out.

“Instead of carrying out the SVEEP activity, it illegally collected voters’ personal information such as their caste, mother tongue, marital status, age, gender, employment and education details. It also collected the Aadhaar card and phone numbers, address, and other details of the voters.”

The AICC general secretary said the NGO’s actions amounted to a breach of privacy.

“The private entity carried out this work by impersonating Booth Level Officers. The BBMP issued them official identification cards. Thereafter, instead of uploading the data of voters into the Garuda application, the official app of the Election Commission of India (ECI), they uploaded it to Digital Sameeksha, which is owned by Chilume Enterprises Private Limited,” Surjewala alleged.

The Congress leader further said that services listed on Chilume’s website included electronic voting machine and counting hall preparations, CCTV installation, and webcasting for political parties.

“I have never heard of a private entity providing such services. According to my knowledge, only the ECI can do it,” Surjewala said.

He released the photos of Krishnappa Ravikumar, who is associated with Chilume, celebrating his birthday in the presence of Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology CN Ashwath Narayan.

“This NGO has claimed that it provides services to political parties, MPs, MLAs and elected representatives. The proximity of kingpin Krishnappa to the former deputy chief minister Ashwath Narayan says who all are behind this electoral fraud,” he said.

Surjewala held Bommai, who is also the minister in charge of Bengaluru, Ashwath Narayan and BBMP Commissioner Tushar Girinath responsible for the electoral fraud. “I demand CM Bommai to step down from his post immediately,” he urged.

Six questions to Bommai
Additionally, Surjewala fired six questions at Bommai:

Who permitted private entity Chilume to act on behalf of ECI and BBMP?
Why didn’t BBMP place an advertisement before giving its nod to a private entity?
Who recommended this private entity?
How was a private entity allowed to collect private information about Bengaluru voters?
How are the employees of the private entity permitted to impersonate Booth Level Officers?
What is the relationship between Bommai, Ashwath Naryan and these private institutes?
“The BBMP is responsible for this fraud. As CM Bommai is in-charge of the BBMP, he must resign. An FIR has to be registered against Bommai. He has to be arrested and won’t get bail for at least three months. The guilty person is sitting at the helm of affairs in the state. An enquiry committee has to be set up under the chief justice of the High Court of Karnataka,” he demanded.

Surjewala appreciated the journalists who investigated the incident.

 

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