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This is how the racket works: candidates bribe registered voters, who they believe would not vote for them for ideological reasons, in exchange for their electors photo identity cards (EPIC).
The price of EPIC cards varies from place to place. It is just Rs 100 in a Lambani tanda (cluster) in a remote assembly segment of north Karnataka but could go up to Rs 2,000 for slum dwellers in Bengaluru.
“I was approached by supporters of a BJP candidate who asked me if I wanted to get Rs 1,000 for not voting,” Arbaz Khan (name changed), a carpenter in Hebbal, said. “And I said, ‘yes’. Some of other absentee voters in my colony got a pint of whiskey along with cash,” he claimed.
In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Kumar Bangarappa contesting from Shivamogga had alleged that BJP was purchasing voter ID cards at Rs 500 from Muslims and Lambanis in Congress-dominated areas. The actor-turned-politician is contesting on a BJP ticket this time after defecting from the Congress.
State election officials, however, said it’s still not easy to steal a vote. “There is something called the vulnerability mapping that the Election Commission has brought out. We have to find out whether any group of people is being prevented from coming to cast their vote. If we find some evidence, we have power to countermand the polls,” they added.
Moreover, a voter can also exercise his or her vote by producing any one of the photo identity proofs issued by government agencies, if he or she does not have the voter ID card. “We have strong provisions under Section 135 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, that deal with rigging polls,” said Manoj R Rajan, special commissioner, elections (BBMP).