“Fake” voter I-card row hits Karnataka days ahead of poll

BENGALURU, May 9:  A massive controversy has rocked Karnataka after nearly 10,000 “fake” voter ID cards were seized from a flat in Rajrajeshwari Assembly seat, prompting the BJP to demand countermanding of the election claiming Congress was behind the racket, a charge dismissed by the latter as a “lie”.
With just three days left before Karnataka goes to poll, the BJP and Congress, the two main contenders for power, went after each other’s jugular, each claiming the flat belonged to a woman associated with the rival party.
Addressing a press conference, Union minister Prakash Javadekar claimed Congress candidate and sitting MLA Munirathna Naidu was behind the alleged racket, which was exposed by BJP worker Rakesh.
Congress spokesman Rajdeep Singh Surjawala hit right back, alleging that the flat owner Manjula Nanjamari and Rakesh had BJP connections and both contested Bengaluru Municipal Corporation elections on the tickets of the saffron party.
Karnataka’s Chief Electoral Officer Sanjiv Kumar had called a press conference last midnight where he said besides the cards, form 6A (application for inclusion of name in electoral roll by an overseas elector) with counterfoils were found. He said that the colour in the counterfoil appeared unusual, and that an inquiry was on.
Javadekar said thousands of fake cards with hologram, lamination machines, and computers were seized by police after BJP workers informed it about the racket, and demanded a thorough forensic inquiry.
“This is the philosophy of the Congress….If voters do not vote for you, create fake voters,” he said, claiming a “fake voter ID printing factory” was being run in Manjula’s flat. Manjula, he said, was once associated with the BJP but was now with the Congress, and demanded her immediate arrest.
He alleged she had campaigned for the sitting Congress MLA from the seat and its candidate for the current Assembly election Munirathna Naidu in the last polls.
The Congress hit back with a vengeance, claiming BJP was making such allegations because it was aware of its imminent defeat.
“They are making such allegations because of their imminent defeat, and after their workers and leaders were caught red-handed influencing voters in collating and collecting fake ID cards in order to influence the results of the elections,” Surjewala told reporters.
He said the ID cards and equipment were not recovered from the flat by the police but BJP workers. The flat, he said, belonged to a BJP worker.
“Prakash Javadekar had the audacity to lie, mislead the people of Karnataka by saying Manjula does not belong to the BJP. She is a former BJP corporator and Rakesh also contested corporation election on BJP ticket in 2015,” he said.
“Javadekar runs a factory of lies. Rakesh was a tenant of flat No. 115 and its is mentioned in the list of BJP candidates who contested the corporation elections. Manjula is a former BJP corporator from Jalahalli,” he said, citing newspaper reports.
“Will Javadekar, Amit Shah (BJP chief) still have the audacity to lie and mislead the people of Karnataka. You were doing a midnight drama for diverting people’s attention…Both Manjula and Rakesh belong to BJP,” he said, adding the saffron party was “deep in the muck” it was trying to hurl at others.
While some TV news channels claimed Rakesh was Manjula’s son, and others said she was his adoptive mother, the women at the centre of the controversy insisted they were relatives but had “no contact”.
She told a TV channel in Kannada, which was translated into English, that since she owned the land on which the apartment building stood, she had entered into a joint venture with a builder.
Manjula said she had rented or leased out the flats. “If Rakesh was aware that some wrongdoing was happening there, he should have informed me.”
When asked whether Rakesh was her son or adopted son, she said he was a nephew and that they had “no contact due to strain in family ties”.
A press release issued by the Karnataka chief electoral officer that was published in some newspapers said the flat was “ownd by a person named Manjula Nanjamari and was rented to a person named Rakesh”.
Javedakar, accusing the Congress of “telling lies loudly”, said Manjula and Rakesh were “at loggerheads” and that he did not stay in her flat.
“The Congress ran an a fake I-Card issuance office there….This is what they are best at,” he said.
Deputy leader of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma said the entire episode was “stage-managed”.
He claimed Manjula was associated with the BJP and her “son” Rakesh had contested the municipal corporation election on a BJP ticket.
“The Election Commission must take action, and a police case be registered,” he told reporters in New Delhi, adding the BJP was up to such tactics as defeat was staring it in the face. (PTI)