A day ago the poll-bound Karnataka saw the seizure of the fake voter id cards, and an investigation was ordered.
And now the Elections Commission has come forward stating that the seized voter ids are in fact original.
The 10,000 voter ID cards seized from an apartment in Rajarajeshwari Nagar (RR Nagar) are genuine, Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer Sanjiv Kumar said on Wednesday, suggesting that the cards appeared to have been collected to bribe “vulnerable” voters in Bengaluru which will go to polls on May 12.
“The documents, including Voter ID cards, around 9,866 EPIC cards, 6,342 fresh voter acknowledgement letters with BBMP seals and another 27,700 acknowledgements without its seals are original,” Sanjiv Kumar said, adding that two people were arrested and a probe was on.
The ‘discovery’ has triggered off a bitter back and forth between the Congress and the BJP that have been holding media briefings since Tuesday midnight to accuse the other of a role in the racket.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also waded into the political row. “Why does the Congress need fake voter IDs? What is the Congress trying to do in Karnataka,” the Prime Minister told an election meeting. The Congress responded with sharp attack, accusing BJP leaders of running “a factory of lies”.
As both parties moved the Election Commission in Delhi, the poll body sent Deputy Election Commissioner Chandrabhushan Kumar to Bengaluru to get a clear picture about the extent of the problem.
Speaking to a leading news agency, Election Commission sources said that prima facie, there did not appear to sufficient cause to cancel elections for the Rajarajeshwari Nagar seat as demanded by the BJP.
On Wednesday evening, Sanjiv Kumar told the media that there was no evidence that any of the voter ID cards were “bogus or concocted”. If someone is saying this, it is wrong,” he said, a remark seen to contradict the BJP’s initial allegation.
The election official said they were also initially told that the apartment was used to illegally access the election commission database and create fake ID cards. This was a much more serious concern but is not true, Sanjiv Kumar reiterated.
Sanjiv Kumar said that the voters’ ID cards, stacks of lists and forms found from the apartment suggested an elaborate survey had been carried out in the constituency to identify vulnerable people. “This is a systematic case of surveying electors and collecting their information. But this is also very serious, the number is very large and needs to completely investigated,” he said.
Asked if the entire exercise had been carried out to bribe voters, Sanjiv Kumar said this was definitely an inference that one could reach. “Because why else would someone collect this big a number of… things… It is serious but it is of a different kind than what was being projected earlier,” he said.
While election officials have a clear idea of what the racket was probably about, they concede it is still too early to point fingers. A couple of flyers of the sitting Congress candidate and visiting cards were also found from the apartment but there were suggestions these could have been planted also.
Sanjiv Kumar did not reveal much about what the authorities have found out about the owner and occupant of the apartment. “This needs to be investigated,” he said.
The BJP had initially alleged the occupant was linked to the Congress candidate.
The apartment under scrutiny belongs to Manjula Nanjamari and her son Sridhar; both say they knew nothing about what was happening inside.
The Congress says Manjula Nanjamari is a former BJP member, but the BJP denies any links with her.