The Karnataka Election Commission has ordered an inquiry into the alleged voter data theft in the state after apprehensions were raised against a non-governmental organisation ahead of Assembly elections, reported PTI on Sunday.

An investigation by news websites The News Minute and Pratidhvani had shown that the NGO, Chilume Educational Cultural and Rural Development Trust, allegedly issued fake identification cards to its field agents of booth level officers after it received permission from the Bengaluru civic body to conduct a voter awareness drive to revise electoral rolls ahead of the Karnataka Assembly polls.

“The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike [the civic body] commissioner had some information,” Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer Manoj Kumar Meena told PTI. “We have the apprehension that there is impersonation and it has to be inquired. Ultimately, after the police investigation and our divisional commissioner inquiry, we will come to know what is there in it.”

On November 17, Congress filed a police complaint against Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, Bengaluru civic body Commissioner Tushar Giri Nath and other officials on the basis of the news reports of the alleged theft. The Opposition party has alleged that the NGO was used to delete Congress voters’ names from the electoral rolls.

“If I comment anything, it will compromise the inquiry,” Meena told PTI. “We will not say about the merit of the complaint. The regional commissioner is entrusted with the inquiry. Let the truth come out. Then we will take action as per the recommendation.”

The NGO workers had collected personal information from voters such as their caste, mother tongue, marital status, age, gender, employment and education details, Aadhaar Card number, phone number, address, Voter ID number and email address, the news reports said. The workers also asked the voters for information about the performance of their elected representatives.

The same NGO was entrusted with election-related tasks in 2018, and in 2019 ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Illegalities done during Congress rule: CM

The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Karnataka on Sunday directed officials to investigate the alleged voter data theft scandal since 2013, when the Congress party was in power in the state, reported PTI.

“I have directed the officials concerned to probe the case from 2013,” Bommai told reporters. “They will ascertain when for the first time the contract to conduct such door-to-door survey was assigned to the Chilume Educational Cultural and Rural Development Institute and what was the content of the order. Our objective is to bring out all the facts.”

Bommai alleged that in 2017, the Congress government illegally gave the NGO the responsibility of carrying out voter revision work and in some cases also filling up booth level officers, reported The New Indian Express.

“They are blaming the government for illegalities committed when they were in power,” Bommai said.

Bommai’s comments came a day after Congress leaders from Karnataka met Meena seeking a judicial investigation into the alleged voter data theft in the state.

Meanwhile, the police have arrested two officials from the Chilume Educational Cultural and Rural Development Trust and have also raided their offices and seized some electronic gadgets and documents.