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The Election Commission must order a thorough inquiry into the discovery of nearly 10,000 Electoral Photo ID Cards (EPIC) from an apartment in Rajarajeshwari Nagar constituency in West Bengaluru. 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.
Read: Election Commission confirms seizure of 9,746 voter ID cards, orders probe
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.
The alleged recovery, in the present case, of counterfoil slips resembling acknowledgement slips used for adding names to the electoral roll also needs probing. 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. They must become the eyes and ears of the Election Commission to ensure a free and fair electoral process.