Accusing the Congress of trying to influence the assembly polls in Karnataka, the BJP on Wednesday asked the Election Commission to countermand the election in Rajarajeshwari Nagar seat after thousands of alleged fake voter ID cardswere found there in a flat on Tuesday. This comes after a midnight press conference on Tuesday in which the Karnataka chief electoral officer Sanjiv Kumar said the seizures from a flat in the constituency in Bengaluru included 9,746 voter cards and roughly a hundred thousand “counterfoils” that resembled acknowledgement slips issued while adding names to the electoral roll.
Kumar said on Wednesday that a deputy election commissioner-rank official was being rushed from the national capital to Bengaluru for probe. Maintaining that prima facie the I-cards looked genuine, he said only a thorough inquiry will bring out the truth.
The incident triggered immediate reactions from the BJP, which, like Congress, approached the poll panel in New Delhi on Wednesday. On BJP’s request to countermand voting in the constituency, the election commission said that it will be decided upon once a report by a special observer it dispatched to the state is received.
A BJP delegation, which included union ministers JP Nadda, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Smriti Irani among others, told the commission that scrapping the poll in the constituency was necessary to “reinstate people’s faith” in the electoral process, Irani told reporters on Wednesday.
Nadda claimed that the incident had showed the design of Congress to influence the election process in the high-stake state polls and added that there was “enough evidence” for this.
Irani said the issue was not only important for the BJP but also the commission as voter ID cards are seen an evidence of people’s faith in the electoral process.
The delegation demanded a thorough probe into the matter to find out if similar methods were used in more constituencies.
Karnataka votes on May 12 and results are expected on May 15.
“An FIR is being registered… preliminary verification suggests the ID cards are genuine but the significance of the counterfoils can only be verified after investigation,” Kumar had said in a hurriedly convened press briefing around 11:45pm on Tuesday night.
The controversy began earlier that evening when local media reported that members of the BJP, including former chief minister DV Sadananda Gowda, reached a flat in Jalahalli area to ostensibly discover the voter cards and computers. Hours later, officials of the election commission also visited the flat.
In the hours that followed, the BJP and the Congress accused each other of being behind a controversy to swing votes – an allegation they based on the identity of the owner and the tenant of the flat.
The owner was identified as Manjula Nanjamuri, who said that she won a civic election in 1997 with BJP support, and the tenant Rakesh, who identified himself as a BJP supporter in comments made to reporters on Wednesday.
Both the Congress and the BJP said Nanjamuri and Rakesh belonged to the other party.
“Congress is losing public support and they are trying hard to rig the upcoming elections in Karnataka by undemocratic ways. So, we demand countermanding of polls in Rajarajeshwari Nagar constituency,” said Union minister Prakash Javadekar shortly after midnight on Tuesday.
By Wednesday morning, BJP president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi made similar attacks at their arch-rival, which is in power in Karnataka.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala refuted the allegation and said the opposition party staged the episode to divert attention.
“Apartment No 115 from where the ID cards were recovered belonged to a BJP corporator, Nanjamuri. The BJP leadership is lying and trying to disassociate itself from its ex-corporator Manjula,” he said.
Police officials did not confirm if Rakesh was the tenant. Nanjamuri told news agency ANI that she rented the flat out to two other individuals whom she identified as Rangaraju and Rekha.
Her son, however, said Rakesh was a relative.
Congress leader Anand Sharma, who met election commission officials in New Delhi on Wednesday, said the discovery of the voter cards was staged by BJP since the flat had not been raided by the poll watchdog.
In Bengaluru, CEO Kumar reiterated that none of the voter cards seized were fake and there had been no breach in the election commission’s systems.