Tarun Bhanot, the Congress candidate from Jabalpur (West), started getting calls from harassed friends on November 24, the night before polling day, saying they were getting abusive calls from his number all evening.
Several calls later, a harried Mr. Bhanot called up Superintendent of Police Harinarayanachari Mishra at 2 a.m. to report the problem. “Initially we did not understand how this was happening. With the existing technology available with the district police, it is not possible to immediately detect such a crime. It took some time for us realise that his mobile SIM [card] had been cloned. This is the first time such an election-related crime has been reported,” Mr. Mishra told The Hindu.
He added that many of Mr. Bhanot’s party colleagues and friends were quite furious that he was abusing them after they had worked hard on his campaign. “They too could not understand how it was possible that someone else could call from his number repeatedly ... It is a small place and people know the numbers of prominent people and their associates. So the suspicion is that it has been done by a local person,” the SP added.
Sources in the police suspect Mr. Bhanot’s political opponents are behind this. “The damage has been done as polling is over,” said a source working on the case. A case has been registered under the IT Act and relevant sections of the IPC and the cyber cell of the Jabalpur police is conducting the probe.
“I believe that the BJP candidate [MLA and former minister] Harenderjeet Singh Babbu is behind it. He also ran a malicious campaign misquoting me and spreading lies about my family in advertisements published in Haribhoomi [a Hindi daily],” Mr. Bhanot told this paper.
Jabalpur saw minor skirmishes between Congress and BJP workers in which two persons were arrested. Three Congress leaders, including cantonment board member Amarchand Bawaria, were attacked. Mr. Bawaria was in the news recently when he asked the EC to cover lotus ponds beside polling booths as lotus is the BJP’s symbol.
“Supporters of BJP candidate Ashok Rohani beat me in front of a polling booth as I had got 26,600 bogus voters deleted from the voter’s list a few months back. I had filed a petition in the High Court that there are 40,000 bogus voters here and the court had directed the EC to detect the bogus voters,” Mr. Bawaria said.