Youth Congress elections: Kerala Police investigate DYFI’s accusation of ECI voter identity theft for manipulation

Youth Congress elections: Kerala Police investigate DYFI’s accusation of ECI voter identity theft for manipulation

 Rahul Mamkootathil

 Rahul Mamkootathil

The Museum police in Thiruvananthapuram have registered a case based on a Left youth organisation’s complaint that “dubious electors” had used bogus Election Commission of India (ECI) voter ID cards as “feigned” digital proof of identity to possibly rig the online Youth Congress (YC) elections in Kerala and tilt the playing field to advantage a particular faction.

An estimated 7.5 lakh persons participated in the YC elections that saw the elevation of YC leader Rahul Mamkootathil as State president-designate.

The first information report (FIR) identified the complainant as the State secretary of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI).

The FIR stated that hitherto unidentified suspects had used a mobile phone application, CR-Card, to electronically generate phoney digital ECI cards to fake voter identity in the YC online polls. The charges in the FIR include online identity theft, use of fabricated digital signature, forgery and fraudulent use of a bogus document as a bona fide one.

The Kerala Police have announced a special team led by the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Law and Order, P. Nidhin Raj, to investigate the case. Circle Inspector A.R. Ajith Kumar is the investigating officer. The special police team comprises cyber-forensic experts.

Chief Electoral Officer Sanjay Kaul has also called for a report from the police. He has also sought an explanation from the YC leadership. Mr. Kaul had termed the accusation grave and, if true, said the suspected voter ID fraud would entail criminal prosecution.

Political implications

The case has political implications for the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC). For one, it has rendered the Youth Congress vulnerable to accusations of electoral manipulation, phoney inner-party democracy, and online fraud and forgery.

DYFI’s charge

DYFI’s former national president, A.A. Rahim, MP, said the organisation has also moved the ECI against the YC.

He alleged that a YC faction had hired professional hackers to hijack the organisational election.

Mr. Rahim accused Mr. Mamkootathil and a “former legislator from the Palakkad Assembly constituency” of having engineered fraud with the help of a public relations expert hired by the KPCC.

Mr. Rahim said the DYFI had hard evidence to prove its charge. He said the suspects had used the fake voter’s ID cards to purchase mobile phone SIM cards.

The DYFI termed the alleged fraud treason, a challenge to democracy and a breach of national security.

Mamkootathil denies charges

Mr. Mamkootathil has denied the charge vehemently. He challenged the DYFI to prove its accusations. He told a television news channel that a conspiracy was afoot to besmirch the YC’s “highly democratic organisational election.”

“I do not need election riggers to win the organisational polls”, he added.

KPCC’s position

On November 17, KPCC president K. Sudhakaran said that using fake voter IDs as proof of elector identity to manipulate the YC polls was “highly unlikely, but not impossible”. He said the party’s national leadership would examine the accusations.

BJP moves ECI

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State President K. Surendran had moved Mr. Kaul, demanding an ECI investigation into the alleged crime.

He posted on X (formerly Twitter) on November 17 that a Congress faction had resorted to the alleged voter identity fraud to twist the YC elections in the group’s favour.

Mr. Surendran alleged that Congress Working Committee (CWC) member K. C. Venugopal and Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan “were completely aware of this,” and “a Congress MLA” orchestrated the offence.

Both leaders were yet to respond to the BJP’s accusation.

CPI(M) seeks ECI, police probe

CPI(M) State Secretary M.V. Govindan had said the YC’s alleged use of readily available mobile phone-based applications and artificial intelligence-driven (AI) technology to forge phoney voter ID cards caused public anxiety and warranted an ECI and police investigation.

Election process

The Youth Congress Election Authority (YCEA) set the election process in motion in May, 2023. It divided the State into four organisational election zones.

It named a returning officer for each zone. The YC mandated that only members between the ages of 18 and 35 could vote to maintain the organisation’s sprightly nature.

The YC had reserved five vice-president seats for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, women, and minority community members, respectively. However, it mandated that competition for the president and two vice-president posts in the State committee would be in the open category.

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