Six Chilume Trust officials along with four BBMP officials have been taken into police custody for three days and 14 days, respectively.
The six employees of the Chilume Trust who were arrested have been identified and taken into police custody for 14 days. Moreover, three regional officers and one assistant revenue officer from the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) have been taken into police custody for three days by Halasurgate Police Inspector, R. Jagadeesh. Experts say the BBMP officials are being made scapegoats by higher political powers, while the Chilume employees were tampering with the voter list in exchange for money. They were charged with data theft, for their involvement in manipulating names from the Voter ID list.
The six Chilume Trust employees arrested were Chairman Ravikumar K, Manager Dharmesh PV, HR Renuka Prasad, Trust Manager Kempegowda, Accountant Lokesh KM, and project in-charge Prajwal.
“We have put the Chilume Trust employees in custody for 14 days. We hope to finish the investigation by then and are looking for other suspects, as well. The investigation has just started and is on-going so it is difficult to tell now what more we will find,” said Trainee Sub-Inspector Ahmed Chowdhari at the Halasurgate Police Station.Kathayayini Chamaraj, a Karnataka Head for the Association for Democratic Reforms said that the BBMP officials were possibly made scapegoats by higher political powers. “It is not so easy for an NGO to get blank ID cards, the entire process is well monitored and scrutinized. Possibly, the BBMP officials are being made scapegoats for politicians who initiated this entire fraud through the Chilume employees.”
She added that the government officials should not be investigating this case at all. “The Election Commission has to probe this matter as it is in direction violation of The Representation of the People Act, 1951. “ She further said that the politicians behind this bought the names from Chilume for which there is clear evidence of financial transactions.
BBMP regional officers Chandrashekar K from Mahadevapura, Bheemashankar and Suhail Ahmed from Chickpete, and Assistant Revenue officer Mahesh from RR Nagar are going to be in police custody for three days from their arrest.
“We have taken them into custody for three days and investigation has started. The charge sheet cannot be disclosed as it is confidential, but if investigation is successful, they will be produced in the court after three days. Or else, we will ask the district magistrate concerned to extend their custody,” said Police Inspector R. Jagadeesh.
The BBMP officials were arrested for providing false Booth Level Coordinator (BLC) ID cards to Chilume Trust employees to conduct voter ID surveys, while the employee used it for collecting personal information from the people. The BBMP officials were suspended on Nov. 21 on these grounds.
Allegations against Chilume Trust are that the persons mentioned above posed as booth level coordinators and booth level officers with the fake IDs provided by the BBMP officials. They collected personal information from voters while doing surveys. The BBMP had allotted the creation of the voter list to Chilume Trust who then added and deleted voter names in the list which amounted to electoral fraud. Police probe has discovered that 500 Chilume employees were allotted by Chairman Ravikumar to survey Bengaluru’s voter’s list. The police have also revealed that majority names of a minority community in the south division have been deleted and new names were replaced with them.
Additional district election officers S Rangappa (Shivajinagar and Chickpet constituencies in-charge) and K Srinivas (Mahadevapura constituency in-charge) were issued immediate suspension orders by the Election Commission.