Kommineni Srinivasa Rao

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has taken politics in the state to a new low. The TDP is emerging as a threat to democracy in this country, as seen from the latest developments. By compromising with the privacy of citizens and using their personal information for political gains, the Chandrababu regime appears to be forgetting the fundamentals of political functioning in a democratic state.

The manner in which personal information of AP citizens including Aadhar card number, Voter ID and other particulars, have been given to a private firm by the government is indeed a serious matter. This comes on the heels of the government spending crores of rupees on pulse survey. It does seem that YSRCP Rajya Sabha MP Vijaysai Reddy‘s complaint has had a grave cascading effect on TDP‘s fortunes.

Without drawing a line between government and party, Chandrababu Naidu has acted recklessly by misusing the personal information of AP residents and passing it over to a private entity known as IT Grids India Pvt. Ltd. By using this information and technology to delete the names of voters considered by the TDP to be sympathetic to the YSRCP, the ruling party in AP has indeed the lowest point in the history of politics.

The TDP has shown the ugliest to face of Indian politics by indulging in such blatantly undemocratic methods such as deleting the names of voters it considers are likely to exercise their franchise in favour of YSRCP. It did not leave it at that. Chandrababu Naidu and Nara Lokesh are now out to portray this as an AP vs Telangana issue. Chandrababu Naidu's agitated speech in Kurnool and Madanapalle are an indication of his panic over the matter. Why should a chief minister respond to a police raid on a small IT firm in Hyderabad?

Chandrababu Naidu and Nara Lokesh claimed that the company in question had developed the app, Seva Mitra for TDP. To that extent there would be no problem but the real issue here is whether this company gained access to personal information of more than four crore AP residents. Was this information which was to have been kept secret by the state government passed on to this private firm?

Why is Chandrababu Naidu unable to explain that the government had officially given this information to IT Grids India? Why was a complaint lodged in Guntur that an employee of the firm in Hyderabad had gone missing? Why did they send police teams from Andhra Pradesh to Hyderabad in such haste? What is it that Chandrababu Naidu and Lokesh fear? Why did they file a habeas corpus petition even when the Telangana police clarified that the employees in question were in their custody? To make matters worse, deepening the suspicions of everybody, why did AP police try to arrest the whistle-blower Lokeswar Reddy in Hyderabad?

Cambridge Analytica hit centrestage for data breach and passing on personal information of more than 30 million Facebook users and created a worldwide sensation. Governments are supposed to keep data related to Aadhaar card and other personal information secret. Similarly, information related to government surveys is also supposed to be kept strictly confidential. Such information is meant to be used strictly by the government for its official activities.

Legal experts have pointed out that by passing strictly personal information to a private company Chandrababu Naidu has violated the Official Secrets Act. The Andhra Pradesh chief minister is trying to wriggle out of the mess he finds himself in, by blaming the TRS government. For the past few months, there have been reports that survey teams have been going around with Tabs in villages across Andhra Pradesh deleting the names of those they consider to be sympathisers of YSRCP from electoral rolls. It is learnt that in each constituency of the state about 10,000 votes were planned to be deleted.

The scale on which the TDP is indulging in deletion of votes can be gauged from the fact that Leader of Opposition in AP Assembly and YSR Congress Party President, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s uncle YS Vivekananda Reddy, former MP, found his name missing in the electoral rolls in his constituency and lodged a complaint in Pulivendula. Officials admit that applications for deletion of thousands of votes had come from one IP address making it seem highly suspicious. It is now evident that surveys being conducted on phones for the past several months were being done to delete the names of voters from electoral rolls.

The fact of the matter is that a question mark hangs over the voters' list across Andhra Pradesh. It is imperative for the Election Commission to step in and act in this matter. It must get to the bottom of this entire scam and ensure that electoral rolls in Andhra Pradesh are cleansed of any tampering. It is absolutely necessary for the election commission to ensure that a free and fair poll is conducted in the state. If a political party thinks that it can manipulate electoral rolls and stay in power forever, it would be deluding itself. History bears witness to the fact that nothing can stop a tidal wave of public support.

Also Read: Rattled Chandrababu Hits Out At Telangana Police In Data Breach Case