Yeshwanthpur corporator GK Venkatesh, who was arrested along with Congress workers K Sunandamma Bore Gowda and Meenamma a day after the flying squad of the Election Commission (EC) seized around 10,000 voter identity cards, laptops and several copies of Form 6 with Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) seals on it from an apartment in Jalahalli, claimed he and his colleagues are being framed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Police have registered two separate cases based on complaints filed by the BJP. “At this stage, because a second police case has been registered, a police investigation is on. Reports have been sent to the Election Commission of India. Delhi deputy election commissioner Chandra Bhushan Kumar made his own report as well”, said Sanjiv Kumar, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) for Karnataka.
“The first case was based on private complaints involving a group clash and the second complaint involves the discovery of several genuine EPIC cards. An investigation by the BBMP’s returning officer revealed that the cards are 100 percent genuine. More than 800 (cards) have been verified”, he added.
“I have no connection with the case”, said Venkatesh. “They have made false allegations against me. I went to the apartment and shot the video myself. Police told me they had a copy of the rental agreement in Rakesh’s name and he fled Bangalore. Police arrested six others”.
But Rakesh, whose aunt, Manjula Nanjamuri, owns the flat at SLV Apartment in Jalahalli, said he can prove Venkatesh’s involvement. “If he (Venkatesh) says that he has the video, tell him to send it. I have the video with documents showing what they were doing and what machines they were using. I can send you the proof”, Rakesh said.
“I filed the complaint at Jalahalli Police Station and requested the officers to take strict action but they are arresting the accused under bailable sections. I don’t mind losing my life but I want police to take proper action. I think they are involved in it too. I think even the BBMP has a hand in this case”, he added.
While Congress workers alleged the scam was being run by Rakesh, a BJP worker who contested the BBMP elections in 2015, Rakesh said he was the one who unearthed the scam and is being victimised. “If I set it up, then why would I try to file a complaint and take it to such a big level? Many people have questioned me on this matter; I know that I’m not the culprit; in fact I’m the victim”, he said.
An altercation occurred round midnight Tuesday between BJP and Congress activists after BJP and JD (S) workers raided the house from where the voter identity cards were recovered. Police initially arrested two persons in the case.
Claiming that house owner Nanjamuri was a BJP leader, Congress workers alleged that the BJP was behind the entire episode. Nanjamuri is a former BJP corporator. The Congress also alleged that Rakesh was Nanjamuri’s adopted son and was living in the apartment. But both Rakesh and Nanjamuri have denied the claim. While Rakesh distanced himself completely from Nanjamuri, the latter said Rakesh is her brother-in-law’s son.
“I filed complaints against all these people and that is why police arrested them. I have no connection with the flat. They are trying to create fake agreement papers in my name I think; if they submit it they should have my signature on it”, said Rakesh. “We called the people whose names were on the envelopes and visiting cards recovered from the house. They said Sunandamma collected the identity cards and that’s why they arrested her along with GK Venkatesh”, he added.
But Sunandamma said the BJP is trying to frame them. “Around six to seven atrocity cases have been filed against me by the BJP. Why will Congress people work from a former BJP corporator’s (Manjula Nanjamuri) house? I don’t understand this logic”, she said. “They are trying to frame us. Do you think people can’t print visiting cards and pamphlets with our names on it? I don’t understand why the BJP keeps targetting us. We will comment on the matter after the elections”, she added.
Venkatesh echoed Sunandamma. “This is all the BJP’s doing; they were targeting people from minority groups. Among the 10,000 voter ids, around 5,000 belonged to Muslims and the remaining were of people residing in slum areas. I don’t know why Congress is being targeted for something the BJP did”.
Venkatesh, Mennamma and Sunandamma were arrested under Section 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means). “The magistrate asked the investigating officer why we were arrested under this section and granted us bail”, said Venkatesh.
On being asked about a BBMP corporator being arrested, Mayor Sampath Raj, who is running for re-election from CV Raman Nagar, said, “Whoever had been arrested are being investigated by the EC. The EC has to decide. This isn’t a civic issue, it is a law and order issue and an EC issue. It will be investigated by them”.
Congress MLA Munirathna, who was accused by the BJP of running the scam, said that Opposition parties were putting forth baseless allegations against him and his workers. But Rakesh dismissed his statement as "lies". “Munirathna held a press conference. Whatever he said was lies. Police is asking me to send the video which shot from my phone. I’m talking to a lawyer and will submit the phone which shot it. I will give it to them only if they agree to give me some form of acknowledgment”, said Rakesh.
Following the incident, the BJP and JD(S) demanded voting be cancelled in the Rajarajeshwari Nagar constituency. But CEO Sanjiv Kumar said the integrity of the electoral rolls has not been compromised. “People without EPIC cards who have other documents will be allowed to vote”, Kumar stated. These documents include passports, passbooks with pictures, and government-issued smart cards.
Kumar said Munirathna’s name was registered in an FIR and all accused will be booked under sections 120 B, 171 E, 171 F of the IPC and sections 123, 125 7A and 1C of the Representation of People’s Act, 1950. He, however, clarified that as registering an FIR is not a criminal indictment, Munirathna will be allowed to contest the election.
Refusing to give details of their investigation, Kumar said, “Appropriate details will come in time. Internal communications are not discussed as it will interfere with the inquiry”.
The author is a member of The NewsCart, a Bengaluru-based media startup.
Updated Date: May 11, 2018 07:24 AM