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EC orders probe over voter data theft in Karnataka

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Bengaluru, Nov 20: In the midst of Congress party's allegations of voter data theft, Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka Manoj Kumar Meena said the inquiry was ordered following apprehension of impersonation by an NGO during the 'voter awareness drive'.

EC orders probe over voter data theft in Karnataka

"The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) commissioner had some information. We have the apprehension that there is impersonation and it has to be inquired. Ultimately, after the police investigation and our Divisional Commissioner inquiry, we will come to know what is there in it," Meena told PTI.

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The Congress in Karnataka has alleged that the Chilume Educational Cultural and Rural Development Institute ('Chilume Trust') hired many private people who were given fake identity cards impersonating Booth Level Officers (BLOs) of BBMP.

The opposition party alleged that the private trust, which was assigned by the Bengaluru civic agency to spread awareness among voters, collected details of the voters such as name, mother tongue, gender, religion, caste, voter ID number and the Aadhaar number.

Meena declined to comment on the complaint by the Congress with the State Election Commission regarding the voter data theft.

He said the reason behind the suspected impersonation will come out only after the probe.

"Let's wait for the inquiry. If I comment anything, it will compromise the inquiry. We will not say about the merit of the complaint. The regional commissioner is entrusted with the inquiry. Let the truth come out. Then we will take action as per the recommendation," the CEO said.

The Congress alleged that the Chilume Trust also fed the information collected from voters into its private app.

To a question whether his office would revisit the deletion of 6.73 lakh names from the electoral roll in Bengaluru following the "revelation", he said addition and deletion are a regular process and there was no need to revisit it again.

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According to Meena, in the city 6.73 lakh names were deleted and about three lakh new names added to the electoral roll.

He added that the Election Commission of India carried out a major exercise to find out "photo-similar" entries in the electoral roll using a software in the country.

Using the software, 16 lakh entries were deleted from the electoral roll from across Karnataka including 6.73 lakh from Bengaluru after the verification by the BLOs.

According to him, about one crore such entries were deleted including around 15 lakh in Tamil Nadu and 14 lakh in Maharashtra.

On the Congress' charge that the directors of the Chilume trust, which is in the middle of the controversy, have not been named in the FIR, Meena said the NGO has been mentioned in it, which itself means that those heading the organisations have been named.

The BBMP had given permission to the Chilume Trust to conduct 'Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP), a voter awareness drive by the Election Commission, in Karnataka, where Assembly elections are due next year.

BBMP said last week that the Trust violated the conditions of the permission and asked the public not to share any voter details with representatives of the NGO.

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