The controversy over the alleged deletion of names of voters — especially those from the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and minority communities — from electoral rolls in the Shivajinagar constituency by the Election Commission ahead of the upcoming Karnataka Assembly polls is snowballing into a major issue.
It has put not only the BJP in a spot, but also the officials of the State Election Commission.
Reacting to reports about the alleged deletion of names in Shivajinagar constituency, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Manoj Kumar Meena on Friday, 24 February, issued a clarification.
“Based on certain complaints related to the Shivajinagar constituency, verifications were done and it was found that 9,195 persons were not found in their residence, and 1,847 persons were reported to be dead. Among these, no names have been deleted yet,” Meena said.
“Necessary action is being taken as per the guidelines by sending notices to these voters and the standard operating procedure (SOP) of the Election Commission of India (ECI) are being followed… the complainants have already filed a writ petition in the Karnataka High Court, and the matter is sub-judice.”
“It may be noted that the Election Commission of India does not capture any data of voters related to caste and religion, and hence the question of deletions of names based on caste or religion does not arise,” Meena added.
Related: ‘9,000 SC/ST, minority voters dropped from electoral rolls’
‘Suo motu deletion’ flagged by MLA
South First broke the story when, on 15 February, Shivajinagar’s Congress MLA Rizwan Arshad flagged the issue to the ECI.
Incidentally, Shivajinagar was among the three Assembly constituencies whose Election Registration Officers (EROs) were suspended and arrested over voter data theft allegations against the NGO Chilume.
MLA Arshad had told South First: “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.”
He and his team compared the electoral lists and found that the ERO of the Shivajinagar Assembly constituency had initiated a suo motu proceeding to delete 9,195 votes from the Final Electoral Rolls 2023 of the constituency.
The MLA then wrote to the religious leaders of other minority communities — including the Archbishop of Bengaluru, Peter Machado — apprising them of his findings.
A delegation from the archbishop’s office then took the matter up with the CEO of Karnataka. They (delegation members) argued with Manoj Kumar Meena who did not give them convincing answers.
Related: Cops probing voter data theft seek Chilume registration data
‘Deletions’ in select booths
MLA Arshad wondered why the ERO initiated the suo moto process to delete names only from 91 selected booths, and not from the 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,” Arshad said.
According to Arshad, the process was initiated after some BJP workers filed a writ petition in a Bengaluru court stating that 26,000 people were not living in the constituency any more and that their names needed to be removed from the electoral rolls.
Related: 3 electoral registration officers suspended over voter data theft
South First had also spoken to CEO Meena, who said: “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 the 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.”
Meena said that he had brought the matter to the notice of the ECI and it would take a call.