Current BJP MLA and cabinet minister CN Ashwath Narayan of Malleswaram assembly seat in Karnataka has sent messages to voters on WhatsApp. These messages contain excerpts from the individual voter ID cards of the voters, which has created a controversy. Some people have raised questions as to how the minister got access to the mobile numbers of the voters.
New Delhi: CN Ashwath Narayan, sitting MLA from Malleswaram assembly seat in Karnataka – who is also the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate from this seat in the upcoming elections – has sent messages to voters on WhatsApp. These messages contain excerpts from the individual voter ID cards of the voters, which has created a controversy.
According to a Deccan Herald report, ‘some residents (of the constituency) have called it illegal and questioned how the MLA, who is also a cabinet minister (in the current Basavaraj Bommai government), had access to voters’ mobile numbers. Made?’
Narayan is the Minister for Skill Development, Entrepreneurship and Livelihood in Karnataka.
The report said, “While contesting candidates have access to voter lists containing photographs of voters, the Election Commission does not share mobile numbers with any candidate, nor are the numbers linked to voter IDs.”
The message sent to voters from the BJP MLA’s office included their names, voter ID card numbers, names of relatives and booth addresses. Naturally the MLA also had access to the respective mobile numbers of the voters.
The newspaper report said that one of the voters has lodged a formal complaint with the electoral officer of the area over the matter.
The controversy also made its way to Twitter with people alleging that it amounts to a violation of one’s privacy.
Although the MLA’s office has said that the messages only went to those who had previously shared their mobile numbers with him, activists have rubbished such claims.
Suspecting illegal access to the data, Vinay Kumar, a member of the Citizens for Sankey Collective, said, “Candidates are given access to electoral rolls only in image format and not in text format.”
The development comes just after the theft of election data involving the NGO Chillum Educational Cultural and Rural Development Trust that rocked the state, the paper said.
In November 2022, a sensational joint investigation by news websites ‘The News Minute’ and ‘Pratidhwani’ revealed that Chilume (a private firm) collected personal data from lakhs of voters in Bengaluru, posing as officials of the Bengaluru Municipal Corporation had collected.
Last week, another report by The News Minute showed another Bengaluru-based private company selling voluminous voter data to candidates contesting state assembly elections.
The report said that information regarding the illegal activity of this new company came to light after an independent candidate alerted the Election Commission of India on being contacted by the data vendor.
Only the officials of the Election Commission of India have access to such sensitive data. A report in The News Minute, published on April 26, said, “According to sources in the Election Commission, what is worrying is that the format of the data being sold is similar to that stored on ERONET, which holds ECI data of voters.” There is a government portal, which only election officials have access to.
The report said that the officials of the commission are probing whether “the company can be used to pay bribes by depositing money in voters’ accounts using UPI”.
Click here to read this report in English.