The seizure of over 10,000 voter identity cards in the election-bound Karnataka’s Rajarajeshwari Nagar constituency in West Bengaluru has raised questions on the fair electoral practices. Surprisingly the seizures were from the flat of BJP MLA of that constituency. It looks party candidates are jittery over the poll outcome otherwise why was such large number of electoral photo ID cards or EPIC made ready and kept in iron boxes. Will the Election Commission of India take cognizance of the issue and register FIR against the party and its candidate from the constituency. The prima facie assessment was that the EPIC cards seemed genuine. But with improvements in digital technology, forgery cannot be ruled out. Not surprisingly, both BJP and Congress have made damaging allegations against each other on who perpetrated the scandal. In recent times, allegations of bribing voters have emerged from the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Parties have even ensured illegal migrants were granted voter ID cards in return for their loyalty. Even fake voters creep into the rolls to give political parties an edge, necessitating house visits by booth level electoral officers to weed out such fakes. It has also happened that genuine voters have found their names missing from electoral rolls or that someone else had already voted for them. Just as it countered EVM rigging allegations, EC must act effectively to rule out the possibility of large-scale replication of EPIC cards or manipulation of electoral rolls. A theory doing the rounds is that the EPIC cards were collected to give freebies to voters supporting a particular candidate. The precedent of the RK Nagar bypoll, countermanded by over eight months in response to bribe charges, exists but there is no evidence that it stopped money changing hands. The bureaucracy, police and civil society have an important role to play in safeguarding democracy and rule of law by nipping in the bud such political attempts to game the system.
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