On May 9, Chief Election Officer for Karnataka Sanjiv Kumar said that the voter identity cards seized in a raid in Bengaluru’s Rajarajeshwari Nagar the previous evening were genuine. “One thing is certain that nobody has broken into our system and no new voter ID cards have been made,” news reports quoted Kumar as saying.
On Tuesday, election commission officers raided an apartment in the Jalahalli locality in Rajarajeshwari Nagar constituency and seized 9,896 Electoral Photo Identification Cards. They also found more than a lakh counterfoils resembling acknowledgment slips of Form 6, which is used for inclusion of name in electoral rolls for first time voters or on shifting from one constituency to another. Officials also found five laptops and a printer.
In a dramatic press conference late on Tuesday night, Kumar said that the voter identity cards were wrapped in small bundles of paper with some phone numbers and names written on them, which seemed to refer to slums in the area.
Officials said that the flat that was raided belongs to Manjula Nanjamuri who had rented it out to tenants.
Big noise, little clarity
The news triggered a bitter battle between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP has accused the Congress of electoral fraud, arguing that visiting cards and stickers of incumbent Congress MLA and party candidate Muniratna Naidu were found in the apartment.
The BJP has also demanded that the election in the assembly constituency be countermanded in light of the development.
However, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala responded to the allegations saying that Manjula Nanjamuri was a former BJP corporator and that the whole episode had been enacted by the BJP to discredit the Congress.
The news agency ANI reported that Manjula Nanjamuri clarified her association with the BJP on Wednesday, saying that she was a corporator between 1997 and 2002 and that the BJP had helped her win.
“I am not a Congress person, and will never be,” she was reported to have said.
Another person being investigated is BJP worker Rakesh, who is supposed to have rented the apartment from Nanjamuri. Both BJP leader Sadananda Gowda and Congress leader Surjewala referred to Rakesh as Manjula Nanjamuri’s son.
Rakesh later told reporters that Manjula Nanjamuri was not his mother but his aunt, which was also confirmed by Nanjamuri’s son, Sridhar Nanjamuri. Manjula Nanjamuri told ANI that Rakesh had no connection with the flat.
Meanwhile, two persons have been arrested in the case.
What remains unclear is the origin of the voter identity cards and counterfoils or how they might have been collected from voters and the possible impact on the election two days from now.
What voters say
In Siddhartha Nagar, a slum about three km away from the apartment that was raided on Tuesday night, residents do not know what to make of the development. Some read reports in the newspapers, others heard of the raids from neighbours and friends. No one was sure if the raid and the investigation would affect them when they went to vote on Saturday.
“Yes, all this is bad,” said Raghu S, who has a small business transporting cargo. “Politicians will always blame each other but there is no way of knowing what happened.”
All the residents Scroll.in spoke to were quick to clarify that they had their voter IDs with them. Many of them had gathered near the anganwadi where the teacher who also doubles up as the block level officer on electoral duty was distributing voter slips.
Rajesh, an electrician, thinks that none of this will impact the election in Rajarajeshwari Nagar. He is confident that 80% of people in the area will vote for the Congress candidate. “If another party candidate is elected, then maybe we can say some fraud has taken place.”
The MLA from the area Munirathna Naidu appeared to be the preferred candidate in Siddhartha Nagar, at least among those that Scroll.in spoke to, though some residents such as Gracie said that they might like to see former Prime Minister Deve Gowda’s party, the Janata Dal (Secular), come to power.
“We have had Congress governments and BJP governments for some time now,” she said. “Let’s give the JD(S) a chance and see what they will do.”
When asked about what she thought about the seizure of voter IDs and if she worried that someone might vote in her name, she said, “If I go to the polling station and find that someone has voted in my name then I will catch the person sitting in the booth. How can they let that happen?”
Most residents were of the view that it was an academic discussion since it was up to the authorities to figure out what happened and take appropriate action.
“Yes, it does make me nervous if there is a chance that someone else is voting in my name,” said Karthik. “But what can you do?”
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