Congress demands resignation of CM Bommai, judicial probe into ‘theft’ of voter data in Bengaluru

Permission was granted to Chilume Educational Cultural and Rural Development Trust for house-to-house awareness campaign about filing online applications via the voter helpline mobile app

November 17, 2022 12:57 pm | Updated 12:57 pm IST - Bengaluru

Senior Congress leaders Randeep Singh Surjewala, Siddaramaiah and D. K. Shivakumar at an early morning press conference regarding stealing of voter data by Chilume NGO in Bengaluru on November 17, 2022.

Senior Congress leaders Randeep Singh Surjewala, Siddaramaiah and D. K. Shivakumar at an early morning press conference regarding stealing of voter data by Chilume NGO in Bengaluru on November 17, 2022. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Senior Congress leaders Randeep Singh Surjewala, Siddaramaiah and D. K. Shivakumar on Thursday alleged the “40% Commission Sarkara” in Karnataka has now corrupted the election process by stealing the voter data in Bengaluru by granting permission to a private agency for house-to-house survey to create awareness on filing online applications via the voter helpline mobile app. The agency was found to be collecting personal data from voters during its visits.

Speaking at a press conference at the KPCC office here, they alleged that Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, BJP government and its officials, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the election authority are together in trampling democracy.

They demanded resignation of Mr. Bommai and a judicial probe into theft of voter data by a private agency — Chilume Educational Cultural and Rural Development Trust. The Congress also demanded that an FIR be immediately lodged against Mr. Bommai and all other officials involved in the process.

“A fair investigation can only take place within a time-bound limit of 30 days under direct supervision and control of Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court,” the Congress said.

BBMP Commissioner Tushar Giri Nath, who is also the election officer, was responsible for compromising the integrity of the process. The private entity, Chilume Enterprises Pvt. Ltd. and DAP Hombale Pvt. Ltd and its officers and directors were responsible for the theft of voter data, Congress leaders claimed.

BBMP withdraws permission

Meanwhile, the BBMP on Wednesday said it had cancelled the permission to Chilume Educational Cultural and Rural Development Trust for its house-to-house voter awareness drive.

BBMP Chief Commissioner Tushar Giri Nath in the release said, “The trust has violated the conditions of the permission. Therefore, the permission has been withdrawn with immediate effect.... We appeal to the public not to share their voter ID details with the representatives of the trust.”

Fraud through impersonation

A Congress press statement said Chilume Educational & Rural Development Institute applied for permission to conduct voter awareness drive of the election commission. The permission, initially granted for the Mahadevapura Assembly, was later extended to all 28 Assembly Constituencies of Bengaluru through a government order on August 20, 2022. The private entity sought to do this voluminous exercise “free of cost”.

Congress leaders said, “Chilume Enterprises Pvt Ltd claims to be an Election Management Company, including working for EVM preparation etc. for political parties”. Shockingly, it also offers “temporary polling personnel from virtually every branch of Government.” The company also runs a voter survey app called Digital Sameeksha. The company further claims that Digital Sameeksha App has a varied client base of political parties, MPs, MLAs, councillors and aspirants.

Senior Congress leaders Randeep Singh Surjewala, Siddaramaiah and D. K. Shivakumar at an early morning press conference regarding stealing of voter data by Chilume NGO in Bengaluru on November 17, 2022. Ramalinga Reddy and M B Patil are also seen. 

Senior Congress leaders Randeep Singh Surjewala, Siddaramaiah and D. K. Shivakumar at an early morning press conference regarding stealing of voter data by Chilume NGO in Bengaluru on November 17, 2022. Ramalinga Reddy and M B Patil are also seen.  | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

On being granted permission, Chilume committed a brazen fraud of collecting voter data, by having privately hired employees impersonate government officers of Karnataka and issuing them BLO (Booth Level Officers) cards. This was done in cahoots with BBMP and Election Authority, Mr Surjewala and KPCC leaders alleged.

Posing as officers of state government, that is BLOs, employees of the private entity collected voter data in 28 Assembly Constituencies comprising information such as caste, religion, age, gender, mother tongue, marital status, Aadhar Number, phone number, address, voter ID number, email address of voters, the Congress leaders alleged.

Data uploaded to Digital Sameeksha

Mr. Surjewala, Mr. Siddaramaiah, Mr. Shivakumar, Mr. Ramalinga Reddy and Mr. M B Patil said the private entity Chilume then uploaded vital voter information on the Digital Sameeksha App owned by its sister concern, Chilume Enterprises Pvt. Ltd. The information was not uploaded on the election commission voter registration helpline “Garuda” or “Voter Helpline”. This was yet another fraud perpetrated on the innocent voters of Bengaluru, they alleged.

The Opposition Congress claimed “proximity and connection of Krishnappa Ravikumar, owner/director of the Chilume Enterprises Pvt. Ltd. & DAP Hombale Pvt. Ltd. to Higher Education & IT Minister C N Ashwath Narayan is apparent from the fact that Mr. Narayan has been pictured celebrating the birthday of Krishnappa Ravikumar.”

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