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EPIC data: DEO told to submit report in 24 hours

The Chief Electoral Officer, Karnataka, has directed the District Electoral Officer (DEO) and BBMP Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad to inquire into allegations of voters in Rajarajeshwarinagar Assembly segment being coerced into divulging details of voters’ ID cards and submit a report within 24 hours.

This was after several Congress leaders, led by former MP V.S. Ugrappa, met with CEO Sanjiv Kumar and lodged a formal complaint against the BJP’s candidate in R.R Nagar Muniratha Naidu, seeking his disqualification from the election. The bypoll to this Assembly constituency is scheduled on November 3.

Mr. Ugrappa maintained that the Congress had proof that the BJP was collecting EPIC (electoral photo identity cards) from voters of poor socio-economic groups and minority communities. “We have received in writing from some voters that they were forced to handover their cards and that they were given ₹5,000 in exchange. Nearly 5,000 such cards have been so far collected by the BJP agents,” he charged and stated that this clearly showed that BJP was employing coercion and threats in the segment.

He also pointed out that this was the same modus operandi that Mr. Munirathna had employed in the previous Assembly polls held in May 2018. “After more than 9,500 EPICs were seized from an apartment in Jalahalli, coming under R.R. Assembly constituency, several cases were registered against Mr. Munirathna,” he said.

In May 2018, Mr. Munirathna contested on a Congress ticket. Asked why the party did not initiate any action against him then, Mr. Ugrappa claimed that Congress “believed the allegations were politically motivated.”

The Congress has now demanded that the CEO direct the authorities concerned to register an FIR against the BJP candidate, his agents and others involved in collecting voters’ details, apart from initiating steps for the conduct of free and fair polls.

Despite several attempts, Mr. Munirathna was unavailable for comment. However, Deputy Chief Minister C.N. Ashwath Narayan, reacting to Congress’ allegation, claimed the party was trying to divert public attention by creating an episode of collecting EPIC by unknown persons.

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