In a massive political development coming right on the eve of the critical Karnataka assembly elections, the Election Commission has announced that the polls in the Rajarajeshwari Nagar seat in Bengaluru will be deferred to May 28 with counting to take place on May 31.
In the order that has been put out by the Election Commission, the body states the following:
"After announcement of the said election, many complaints were being received in this constituency with regard to distribution of money, gift items and other materials."
'The seizure of a truck carrying goods worth about Rs 95 lakh and the seizure thousands of Voter ID cards, survey forms of voters and few items (carrying photograph and name of a particular candidate)'
Both matters, without mentioning a name explicitly, relate to the sitting Congress MLA in the seat, Munirathna Naidu, who has been named as an accused in the FIRs filed in both cases.
The EC goes on to state:
"The document showed that the concerned party/candidate had used a survey firm to carry out a detailed survey of the voters in the area which included photograph of the house of the particular voters along with his details of caste, gender, contact number, along with their passport size photographs."
It mentions that the BJP and Congress had filed allegations and counter-allegations regarding the findings after which the Deputy Election Commissioner was sent to the location and submitted his report on May 10. The report mentioned the two FIRs in which the Congress MLA has been mentioned.
The circumstances of the almost 10,000 voter ID cards being found in the flat are then listed, following which the EC confirms Republic TV's Wednesday #BribeForVotes expose which revealed that voter IDs were collected after economic profiling of vulnerable sections in the area and were to be returned to them on voting day so that they could vote for the party in question, in exchange for which they would be 'bribed' in cash or kind.
On Tuesday night, the BJP had issued a late night news briefing demanding that the Rajarajeshwari Nagar poll be countermanded as a result of the 10,000 voter IDs being found in an apartment in the constituency.
The Congress then held a counter-briefing where it alleged that the apartment's owner was a former BJP corporator named Manjula Nanjamari. Both parties held a number of briefings after that where they tried to blame the other for the operation. Speaking to Republic TV, however, Manjula Nanjamari claimed that she had no idea of what was going on and that she wasn't related to either of the two parties.
Two former Karnataka chief ministers, Yeddyurappa and Sadananda Gowda had alleged that the operation was being carried out at the behest of the sitting Congress MLA from Rajarajeshwari Nagar, Munirathna Naidu.
Republic TV stung one of the persons (a tout) who had collected voter ID cards and she also admitted that she had done so for Munirathna. Munirathna's visiting cards and pamphlets had also been found at the apartment amidst the voter ID cards and he accepted they were his when Republic TV spoke to him on Wednesday night.
On Thursday, Munirathna Naidu had a FIR filed against him by the EC in the matter of Rs 90 lakh-worth of T-shirts and half-pants bearing his photo being seized in a truck. Later, the Election Commission confirmed that he had also been named as an accused in a second FIR, this one dealing with the 10,000 voter IDs. When Republic TV spoke to him again, Munirathna said that he had distributed thousands of pamphlets and that visiting cards could be printed easily, alleging that his materials had been placed in the apartment to implicate him. He said that anyone can make anyone else an accused by hoarding election material.