A non-profit roped in by the Karnataka government for an awareness campaign allegedly went door-to-door collecting voters’ data under false pretenses, in a new scandal to hit the Basavaraj Bommai-led BJP government.
The NGO “Chilume Educational and Cultural Institute” was allowed by Bengaluru’s civic body BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) to carry out a voter rights awareness campaign. But in a massive breach of data, the NGO’s case workers allegedly posed as booth level election officers and collected basic data from people in Bengaluru. The data is significant with less than six months to the Karnataka election due by May next year.
Besides names and addresses, the NGO allegedly took voter details such as religion, caste, gender and mother-tongue.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, already targeted over the “40 per cent” bribe for contracts allegation, is facing fresh opposition attacks because he is in charge of the civic body. He denied any electoral fraud and said he is ready for a probe.
“If some people in that NGO have misused that position that will be inquired into and action will be taken against them. That is not an issue at all. But what is the proof? Private information was given to whom? Nothing is on paper, it is a baseless allegation and I’m astonished that the Congress is so bankrupt of ideas,” Mr Bommai said.
“This is just a baseless allegation, there is no proof at all, let there be an inquiry, let there be investigation. We are not shying away from it.”
The Chief Minister said he had asked the BBMP commissioner to file a case.
Karnataka’s main opposition Congress has alleged that the NGO can now sell the data to either a potential candidate or even a party.
The Congress demanded Mr Bommai’s resignation, calling him directly responsible for corrupt electoral practices by assigning a private entity to collect door-to-door voter information.
Congress general secretary and the party’s Karnataka in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala said the Chief Minister was the “conduit of the electoral fraud”.
“There has to be an FIR against Basavaraj Bommai and he should be arrested,” Mr Surjewala told reporters.
The data gathered by the NGO was not fed into the Garuda application of the government but into an application of the private firm called “Digital Sameeksha”, according to the Congress leader.
The firm appointed hundreds of Booth Level Officers, which technically should be government-appointed people, and were given I-cards resembling those of government workers, Mr Surjewala said.
“We want to know who permitted a private entity to conduct the survey on behalf of the BBMP? Who recommended the government to give such a contract to a private entity and why were the antecedents of the contractor not checked?” the Congress leader said.
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