‘What has shocked people and EC is the syndicated approach by voter ID agents and political parties’.
The seizure of 9,742 voter IDs from an apartment this week has exposed the dark underbelly of the election system. It has brought to light the existence of voter ID syndicates which operate out of every urban constituency, where vote ID agents do bulk deals in “Cash for Vote”. The process in political lingo is called “Slum Booking” where a voter ID agent negotiates bulk vote deals in lieu of a payment. What has shocked the people and the Election Commission is the syndicated approach in “voter management” by these “voter ID agents” and political parties.
The drama that unfolded over the blame game between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress on seizure of the voter ID cards flashed on TV screens across the country. Both the major parties, Congress and BJP, traded charges. Each tried to shift the blame to the other for being behind the syndicate of “voter ID agents”.
The incident exposed that poll management has become a system which not just maps the profiles of the voters in the constituency, but also the extent that it encroached into privacy of the voters, demolishing the entire essence of democracy.
The sequence of events unfolded on Tuesday afternoon when a group of party workers of the BJP candidate from Rajarajeshwari Nagar in North Bengaluru stormed an apartment complex in Jalahalli area and found the voter IDs, along with nearly one lakh registration forms, apart from several laptops, photocopiers etc. The scuffles and the drama that ensued saw the BJP workers blaming the operators being linked to the Congress party candidate Muniratna. What became embarrassing by midnight was the fact that the voter ID card syndicate was being run by the adopted son of a BJP ex-corporator. The BJP quickly denied any linkages with her, but she insisted on being a true BJP worker and claimed to continue working for the party. The BJP and Congress played out a high intensity midnight drama of press conferences till 2 am and several representations to the Election Commission. By Thursday, two FIRs had been filed, including on Muniratna, the sitting MLA from the Congress party.
The Election Commission, in a notice, said that voting for the constituency will now be held on 28 May and the counting of votes will take place on 31 May. The Sunday Guardian’s investigation has shown that the system which has become a trend in the last few polls, started after the Election Commission crackdown in recent polls on cash and liquor distribution had made it tough for the parties to “buy” votes. Several local leaders had over the years mastered the art of collecting a bunch of voter IDs, ranging from 100-200 from each booth and then negotiate a price with the parties. Though these political workers belong to any particular party, they negotiate with candidates of all the key contestants. The bulk rate for a set of 200 votes ranges between Rs 4-6 lakhs. The voter ID agents are usually not averse to strike a deal with any candidate and settle for the one who generally pays up highest.