Karnataka: 9,000 SC/ST, minority community voters dropped from electoral rolls, alleges MLA

Congress MLA from Shivajinagar constituency Rizwan Arshad flags issue, election commission wants 'missing' voters to file objection.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Feb 15, 2023 | 10:02 PMUpdatedMar 13, 2023 | 11:27 AM

MLA Rizwan Arshad at a Church in Shivajinagar

Names of voters, especially those from Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), and minority communities, have been dropped from electoral rolls ahead of the April-May Assembly elections in Karnataka, a Congress MLA from Bengaluru has alleged.

Congress MLA from Shivajinagar constituency, Rizwan Arshad, has flagged the issue to the Election Commission of India.

Incidentally, Shivajinagar was among the three Assembly constituencies whose Election Registration Officers were suspended and arrested over voter data theft by an NGO ‘Chilume’, which is also accused of tampering with electoral rolls.

“A suo motu process to delete minority votes from selected booths of Shivajinagar Assembly constituency has begun after the publication of the Final Electoral Roll 2023 of the constituency,” Rizwan Arshad alleged while speaking to South First.

MLA carries out checks, finds voters names missing 

MLA Arshad and his team compared the electoral lists — from the previous election to this one — and found that the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) of Shivajinagar Assembly constituency had initiated a suo motu process to delete 9,195 votes from the Final Electoral Rolls 2023 of the constituency.

“Nearly 8,000 voters out of selected 9,195 belong to Christian, SC, Backward Classes and Muslim communities. Shivajinagar Assembly constituency has a total of 193 booths, but this exercise has been conducted selectively in only 91 out of 193 booths, where the minorities predominantly reside,” Arshad told South First.

MLA Arshad then wrote to the religious leaders of other minority communities — including the Archbishop of Bangalore, Dr Peter Machado — apprising them of his findings.

Related: Cops probing voter data theft seek Chilume registration data

Archbishop’s delegation meets with CEO

The Archbishop’s office verified and scrutinised the MLA’s claims and cross-checked with the Christian community members residing in Shivajinagar constituency. To their shock, they found that a large number of names of Christian community members had gone missing.

“It is shocking that 91 booths out of 193 booths in Shivajinagar have been selectively picked and voters from these booths have been deleted — where a large number of minorities reside. When we brought this matter to the notice of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Manoj Kumar Meena, he told us that the new electoral list does not have these names as the voters are no more residing in that constituency and have shifted their houses,” JA Kanthraj, PRO of the Archbishop’s office, told South First.

The delegation, including Kanthraj, explained to Meena that a large number of minority community members staying at these pockets were migrant workers and they would not be available at home during the day.

“It is not true that they have shifted their houses. They go for odd works and only return in the night. However, CEO Meena said that if they find their names missing, they could fill in an application and become eligible for voting,” he said.

Also Read: South First opinion poll gives Congress edge in Karnataka

Selective targeting of minority voters?

“When we questioned him (Meena) whether no one from the other 102 constituencies have shifted their houses, he did not have an answer. And, moreover, when we asked how could their names could be deleted just like that, Meena told the delegation that people who find their names missing could apply to be included,” JA Kanthraj added.

Congress MLA Rizwan Arshad too wondered why the Election Registration Officials deleted names only from the selected 91 booths, and not from other 102 in Shivajinagar.

“These 91 booths are full of minority votes, and when they take their IDs and go out to vote on election day, they will not find their names, and they will not be able to vote. The BJP party workers have filed a writ petition at a Bengaluru court stating 26,000 people are not living in this constituency and their names need to be removed from the electoral rolls,” Arshad added.

“If this has happened in one constituency, we fear that many constituencies across the city would have been tampered and meddled with, and if such mischief is allowed to be carried on unchecked, the confidence of the people in the electoral process will be destroyed and devastated beyond measure,” JA Kanthraj added.

The delegation written to the Chief Electoral Officer to intervene and arrange to notify a revised, error-free and updated electoral roll at the earliest, so as to restore the confidence of people in the election process.

Chief Electoral Officer’s Reaction

When contacted, CEO Manoj Kumar Meena told South First that the minority delegation that visited him did not have “prima facie evidence or detailed information on their allegations”.

“Someone has told them and they have verified with a few people and concluded that all these deletions have happened. Not a single name has been deleted. We received a complaint from a political party that around 26,000 people in Shivajinagar constituency are not staying or living within that constituency. We engaged the EROs to verify and conduct a drive where the EROs found around 9,000 people were untraceable,” he said.

“We have issued notices to each of them and this is a process. If someone has an objection, we will drop it, and will go no further. The delegation’s allegations are not true,” Meena said, adding “We have informed the Election Commission of India about the issue and the commission will take a call.”