RTI response on Dalit Bandhu scheme in Huzurabad fake: ECI

The matter of the fake RTI letter came to light after a media person asked the ECI to verify if a person named Mohan Maganeti actually filed an RTI query, which was widely circulated.

Hyderabad: Telangana chief electoral officer (ECI) Shashank Goel on Thursday said that a widely circulated Right to Information (RTI) response, purported to be from the Election Commission of India (ECI), is fake. On October 22, a letter was shared with the media, which stated that the Dalit Bandhu scheme’s implementation in the Huzurabad constituency, which is up for a by-election on October 30, was stopped after a letter was sent by BJP leader Eatala Rajender to the ECI.

In the supposed RTI response, which the ECI has now said is fake, the supposed applicant named Mohan Maganeti was issued a response from an ECI official named Gurpreet Singh (Public Information officer) which said: “The Election Commission received various complaints from Candidates and Political Parties, with the reference of letter sited to EC from Eatala Rajender (Ex-MLA) on 24th September 2021. In this regard, Election Commission considered the Scheme is under Violation of MCC and directed to Government officials till election code is lifted.”

However, Goel, in a letter addressed to Telangana director general of police Mahender Reddy, Karimnagar district collector, Returning Officer – Huzurabad and other officials from the ECI, clarified that there is so such PIO from Election Commission of India named Gurpreet Singh. The Telangana CEO also stated that no such RTI response was also issued from the ECI’s side, and also that an FIR may be lodged for all necessary legal action in the matter.

The matter of the fake RTI letter came to light after a media person asked the ECI to verify if a person named Mohan Maganeti actually filed such a query. Based on that, Sanjay Kumar, under secretary, ECI, wrote to CEO Shashank Goel in Telangana stating that no such person had filed an application, and asked him to also explain the same to the media.

Earlier this month, the ECI also stopped the implementation of the Dalit Bandhu scheme citing the Model Code of Conduct. In September, days after Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) had announced the scheme, the state government had in fact disbursed Rs 2,000 crore to Huzurabad constituency which was chosen as a pilot to implement the scheme. Under the programme, each Dalit beneficiary will get Rs 10,00,000 as funds to alleviate them out of poverty by helping them set up a business.

The upcoming Huzurabad by-election on October 30 is mostly touted to be a direct contest between the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and ex-TRS health minister Eatala Rajender, who is currently with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In the upcoming Huzurabad bypoll, which will be held on October 30, the TRS’s candidate is local partyman Gellu Srinivas Yadav, who will be facing-off BJP’s Eatala Rajender. In the previous 2018 state elections, Rajender secured 104469 votes, with Congress candidate P. Kaushik Reddy getting 60604 votes.

The BJP’s Raghu Puppala got a paltry 1670 votes. In the 2018 state elections, the BJP also won just one out of 119 seats. However, things are very different now, as Kaushik Reddy has joined the TRS, and is waiting for his MLC nomination to be cleared by Telangana’s governor Tamilisai Soundararajan.

For Eatala Rajender, the bypoll is also a prestige issue, given that he is a former aide of KCR, and an ex-TRS minister. Rajender was sacked from the Telangana cabinet in May this year after lang-grabbing allegations surfaced against him. He then quit as an MLA and joined the BJP in June. A win for him will be a big slap on the face for KCR, and will also give a boost to the BJP, which has been staking claim as the main opposition party in the state, a position which the Congress held naturally until recently.

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