A non-profit organization hired by the Karnataka government for an awareness-raising campaign is said to have gone door-to-door collecting voter data under false pretenses, in a new scandal that has hit the Basavaraj Bommai-led BJP government.
The NGO “Chilume Educational and Cultural Institute” received permission from Bengaluru’s civic body BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) to conduct an awareness campaign on voter rights. But in a massive data breach, the NGO’s caseworkers reportedly posed as state-level election officials and collected basic data from people in Bengaluru. The data is significant with less than six months until the elections in Karnataka due to take place in May next year.
In addition to names and addresses, the NGO reportedly collected voter data such as religion, caste, gender and native language.
Prime Minister Basavaraj Bommai, who was already the target of “40 percent” contract bribery charges, is facing fresh attacks from the opposition as he heads the civil body. He denied any election fraud and said he is ready for an investigation.
“If some people in that NGO have abused that position, it will be investigated and action will be taken against them. That is not the issue at all. But what is the evidence? Who has private information been given to? paper, it’s a baseless claim and I’m amazed that Congress is so bankrupt of ideas,” Bommai said.
“This is just an unfounded claim, there is no evidence at all. Let there be an investigation, let there be an investigation. We are not going back on it.”
The Chief Minister said he had asked the BBMP Commissioner to file a case.
Karnataka’s main opposition congress has claimed that the NGO can now sell the data to a potential candidate or even a party.
Congress demanded Mr Bommai’s resignation and held him directly responsible for corrupt election practices by designating a private entity to collect door-to-door information on voters.
Congress secretary general and Karnataka party leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said the Chief Minister was the “conduit of the election fraud”.
“There must be an FIR against Basavaraj Bommai and he must be arrested,” Surjewala told reporters.
The data collected by the NGO was not fed into the government’s Garuda application, but into a private company application called “Digital Sameeksha,” the congress leader said.
The company appointed hundreds of Booth Level Officers, who technically should be government-appointed people, and issued I-cards similar to those issued to government employees, Surjewala said.
“We want to know who authorized a private entity to conduct the investigation on behalf of the BBMP? Who recommended the government give such a contract to a private entity and why have the contractor’s backgrounds not been checked? ?” said the congressman.
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