The Congress in Karnataka on Thursday charged the Chief Minister with “corrupt electoral practice” vis-a-vis an “awareness programme,” a charge rejected outright by Basavaraj Bommai who said the opposition party was bankrupt with ideas.
The CM asserted he was ready to face an inquiry and also get investigated, Congress’ allegation that a private firm engaged in a voter survey in the city collected details, including on individuals’ caste and their Aadhaar.
As the issue erupted into a political row, the city’s civic body announced terminating the permission granted to the NGO involved in the programme and authorities said action will be taken against it if it was found to be involved in violations.
Congress national general secretary and Karnataka in-charge Randeep Surjewala demanded the resignation of Bommai, alleging he is directly responsible for the corrupt electoral practice by assigning a private entity, Chilume Educational and Rural Development Institute, to collect door-to-door voter information.
Dismissing Congress’ allegation, Bommai said it has got bankrupt ideas due to which it was making baseless charges without any proof. He said he was ready to get the matter investigated.
Earlier in the day, Surjewala said the BBMP authorised a private firm in August to carry out a door-to-door survey of voters ‘free of cost’ and it gathered information about their gender, mother tongue, and collected voter ID and Aadhaar details.
“Chilume Educational and Rural Development Institute applied for permission to conduct a voter awareness drive of the Election Commission. Firstly, the permission was given for Mahadevapura Assembly constituency and it was then extended to all 28 assembly constituencies of Bengaluru vide a government order dated August 20, 2022,” the AICC general secretary claimed in a press conference.
Further, Chilume is connected with and owned by common owners and directors of two other entities, including Chilume Enterprises Private Limited, he said.
Alleging “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 government-appointed persons, said Surjewala, adding these BLOs were also given identity cards resembling those possessed by government employees.
The AICC general secretary also sought to know how a private entity was permitted to collect personal voter information like caste, religion, age, gender, mother tongue, marital status, Aadhaar number, phone number, address, voter ID number, and email address.
Can the personal data of voters be uploaded by a private entity on its private app, which supposedly is used by political parties, MPs, MLAs, councillors, and aspirants for political usage on payment, he wondered.
Former CM Siddaramaiah and state Congress chief D K Shivakumar lodged a complaint with Bengaluru police commissioner C Pratap Reddy over the matter.
With inputs from News18