New Delhi / Bengaluru: The Congress on Saturday welcomed the Election Commission’s (EC) action in Karnataka over the voter-fraud charges made by it and said to maintain the sanctity of democracy and free-and-fair elections, the poll panel’s probe has to cover all 28 constituencies in and around Bengaluru and not just three.
Congress general secretary in-charge of Karnataka Randeep Surjewala also demanded an FIR against Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and the chief commissioner of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), who is the electoral officer of the constituencies where voters’ data was allegedly collected by a private firm and additions and deletions were made in the electoral rolls.
“The Congress welcomes the swift action by ECI on our complaint of ‘VoteFraud’ in Karnataka, but for maintaining the sanctity of democracy, ECI cannot confine its inquiry/action to just three assembly seats of Bengaluru,” Surjewala wrote on Twitter.
He alleged that the “kingpin” of the “voter fraud”, who is responsible for the denial of the “right to vote” to Kannadigas is none other than Bommai and also hit out at the BBMP chief commissioner.
“FIR must be lodged by ECI against them for a fair enquiry to take place,” The Congress leader said.
He alleged that Chilume Trust and Chilume Enterprises were authorised by the Bommai government to collect voters’ data for all 28 Assembly constituencies in and around Bengaluru.
“They have illegally collected voter personal data and uploaded it to a private app.
“Any fair enquiry in VoteFraud by ECI has to cover all 28 assemblies,” Surjewala said in a series of tweets.
The Rajya Sabha MP said Chilume hired nearly 10,000 employees, sub-contracted the data collection work to multiple agencies and the voters’ data was “illegally stolen”.
“Crores were pumped in. Where did the money come from? Who funded this illegal operation? “ECI has to enquire the brazen hijacking of democracy,” the Congress leader said.
Surjewala alleged that new revelations disclose that Chilume’s “fat cat”, Ravikumar, had also received payments from the BJP-led Centre in the bank accounts of innocent villagers and withdrawn the same, indicating a huge money-laundering racket and the duping of the exchequer.
“ECI should investigate and ask ED/IT to investigate,” he said.
“Lastly, all the above is imperative for retaining the very sanctity of democracy, for the Bommai government’s sinister plan to corrupt the electoral process has been caught red handed.
“Onus is on ECI and each one of us to defend democracy and every Kannadiga’s ‘right to vote’,” the Congress general secretary said.
The EC ordered the suspension of two additional district electoral officers on Friday and directed for a review of the deletions and additions in the voter lists of three Assembly seats in Karnataka.
This followed allegations of “electoral fraud” in the state by the Congress.
The poll watchdog also directed the chief electoral officer of the southern state to share a list of all deletions and additions effected in the electoral rolls of the Shivajinagar, Chickpet and Mahadevapura Assembly seats after January 1, 2022 with all the recognised political parties so as to enable them to file claims and objections.
The commission issued directions to immediately suspend additional district election officers S Rangappa (in-charge of the Shivajinagar and Chickpet constituencies) and K Srinivas (in-charge of the Mahadevapura constituency).
The poll panel also ordered a departmental enquiry against them.
The Karnataka Assembly polls are slated next year and the Congress is seeking to wrest power from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state.