Is ECI voter data being leaked to political parties?

At least half a dozen citizens of Hyderabad took to Twitter and posted screenshots of messages they received from BJP leader N. Ramchander Rao after they enrolled as voters for MLC elections.

Hyderabad: Controversy seems to be the leitmotif of the Election Commission of India (ECI). After earlier facing flak for mass name deletions, questions are being raised if the ECI’s data of voters is being leaked to political parties, especially the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 

Citizens from Hyderabad, who enrolled as voters for MLC elections (Graduates constituency) have been stumped as to how they received congratulatory messages after their names were successfully registered as voters. At least half a dozen citizens took to Twitter and posted screenshots of messages they received from BJP leader N. Ramchander Rao. 

“I am extremely delighted to inform you that you have been successfully enrolled as a voter on the rolls of the HYD-RR-MBNR graduates MLC constituency. Looking forward for your support and blessings to give me another opportunity to work for better society,” stated the automated message from Ramchander Rao. 

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Many have raised questions as to how and why the BJP managed to get hold of such data. While political parties do have access to electoral rolls to verify voter data, how phone numbers have been accessed does raise questions.

“I registered for MLC voter lists in Telangana and I get a message from the BJP Floor Leader about my successful enrollment. How are my details shared with BJP @ECISVEEP?” questioned city-based activist Srinivas Kodali on Twitter. 

His tweet got about 1,300 likes and nearly 600 retweets. Responding to his tweet, other users also shared screen shots of the same. When asked if other political parties also have access to such information, Congress and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) functionaries replied in the negative. 

A senior state government official, who did not want to be quoted, also said he was surprised to learn about such a development. In spite of repeated attempts to contact state Chief Election Officer Shashank Goel, he could not be reached. An email has also been sent to him for a clarification on the issue.

Earlier, before the 2018 state election polls, the ECI faced severe criticism as thousands of people across the state found their names missing from the electoral rolls, in spite of having voted in the previous election (2014).

It was found that the ECI in Telangana had taken up voter purification of the rolls using Aadhar data, and that about 30 lakh names had been deleted in the process. Though the electoral rolls were constantly updated, many on the day of election had complained that their names, in spite of being registered voters, had been missing. 

The ECI then in a rebuttal had said that there was no wrongdoing on its part and that citizens had the opportunity to check if their names were present in the electoral rolls or not. However, it may be pointed out that many, whose names were already in the rolls, said that they were not aware of their names being deleted in the first place. 

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