AAP-BJP fight over voter list ‘deletions’ now at EC doorstep
Leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on Friday protested outside the office of the Election Commission of India (ECI) alleging that the Delhi police were trying to collect data of voters for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by conducting raids on call centres hired by the AAP. The sit-in protest by AAP leaders prompted chief election commissioner Sunil Arora to convene a meeting of the Delhi chief electoral officer and police later in the evening.
Sisodia said the police, in the joint meeting, accepted they had visited the call centres. “However, they said that technically it was not a ‘raid’. “We asked the ECI stop the police action and if the commission thinks AAP’s action is a crime then it should conduct a probe in its own capacity. Right now, election officers have gone to brief the ECI about this meeting and seek their directions. We are waiting for their directions,” he said after the meeting.
Earlier in the day, AAP leaders including Sisodia, MP Sanjay Singh, its Lok Sabha candidates Raghav Chadha and Atishi, had met Arora to urge him to take action against the Delhi police for “harassing” call centre executives hired by the party without any prior notice. Sisodia, after the meeting in the afternoon, had said that the CEC had assured to look into the matter.
But, drama unfolded at the ECI’s office by evening as AAP sought another appointment with the CEC, complaining that even after their meeting with Arora, the police again raided the call centres. “Barely an hour after we met CEC Sunil Arora to lodge a complaint against the police, a fourth raid was conducted. The Delhi police is acting at the BJP’s behest to harass call centre employees. Demanding fair elections, we are sitting outside the election commission to protest against the raid on the call centre,” Sisodia said.
The Delhi police said they have registered an FIR following several complaints regarding bogus calls about Delhi’s electoral rolls and investigations were underway. “Relevant facts of the matter are being ascertained. The investigation is being conducted strictly in accordance with the law. Nobody has been arrested in the case so far. As far as the allegations against us (Delhi Police) are concerned, we have already responded about it to the EC. Moreover, no call centre owners have filed a complaint regarding harassment by our investigating team members,” said Satish Golcha, special commissioner of police (crime).
Delhi CM and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal also questioned the CEC and said that the police while questioning the call centre employees was “asking only for server details” and the AAP’s data . “Why is CEC raiding our call centres and asking for our data? What is our crime? Please tell our crime at least.. Police is saying just one thing – give your data. This means the election commission wants to take our data and hand it over to Amit Shah (BJP chief),” he posted on Twitter.
A BJP team had earlier met Arora and alleged that the AAP was making “misleading” phone calls about the city’s electoral rolls. Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls scheduled to begin on April 11, the ECI had directed the police to take “necessary action” against people making such calls. An FIR was also filed .
The AAP leaders have asserted that they were responsible for hiring the call centre employees to make people aware that names had been deleted from voters’ lists and the police should question the party leaders instead of the workers.
The party has alleged that the BJP got more than 30 lakh voters’ names deleted in Delhi, even as some leaders such as AAP MP Sanjay Singh have often quoted the figure as 24 lakh. However, responding to an unstarred question, Delhi election minister Imran Hussain recently told the Delhi Assembly that names of 11.54 lakh voters were deleted from the electoral rolls between 2015 and 2018, while 18.45 lakh names were added.