EC drags its feet over 'communal' animation by Karnataka BJP

At the time of filing this report, the animation had been seen by 5.6 million people, retweeted over 10,000 times, and liked by over 15,000 users

Representative image of Election Commission of India headquarters (photo: IANS)
Representative image of Election Commission of India headquarters (photo: IANS)

NH Digital

On Saturday, the official handle named @BJPKarnataka shared an offensive and misleading post with communal overtones on X.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) could have taken note of the post on Saturday itself. However, at the time of publishing this report today, Sunday, the animation was still in full view even as Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee media and communication chairman Ramesh Babu filed a formal complaint against BJP president J.P. Nadda, its IT cell in-charge Amit Malviya, state president B.Y. Vijayendra and the Karnataka BJP social media in-charge for posting the animation video on X.

Are political parties no longer required to clear advertisements and animations before publicising them is the question. Even had the ECI not cleared the post, it could have reacted immediately and asked the BJP to take it down.

The post is titled, “Beware…Beware…Beware…! It shows a bird’s nest with three small eggs labelled 'Scheduled Castes' (SC), 'Scheduled Tribes' (SC), and 'OBCs'. It then shows two men, thinly disguised animated versions of Rahul Gandhi and Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah, walking in and dropping a big egg, labelled 'Muslim'. When this egg hatches, the chick wearing a skullcap is bigger than the rest, and Rahul feeds it from a box marked 'funds'. The chick grows and with its wings, pushes the other chicks out of the nest.

The complaint pointed out that the animation video was intended to promote enmity and hatred between Muslims and others, namely SC and ST communities. It also sought to portray the Congress party as anti-SC/ST and OBC. 

Stating that the post violated the model code of conduct (MCC), with the state holding its second and last phase of polling for 14 Lok Sabha seats on Tuesday, 7 May, it clearly aimed at influencing and intimidating voters belonging to the SC/ST communities, the complaint added. The animation showing a chick marked ‘Muslim’ kicking other chicks marked ‘SC, ST and OBC’ was in poor taste and designed to incite voters against voting for the Congress.

The post also resorted to falsehood, as nowhere has the Congress manifesto mentioned that allocations of funds to SC, ST and OBC communities will be cut and handed over to the Muslim community. The false narrative, however, has been peddled by even Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his election speeches and despite complaints, the ECI has failed to act.

The BJP has also been alleging that the Congress will include Muslims in the OBC category, though PM Modi himself in a 2022 interview boasted of having included Muslims in the OBC category when he was chief minister of Gujarat, posted Jairam Ramesh, Congress MP and communications general-secretary.

In his complaint, Ramesh Babu pointed out that Malviya was a repeat offender. “I have been watching tweets of BJP and Amit Malviya who is a habitual offender who has deliberately put out messages and videos to mislead the public and cause false alarm which would lead to clash between communities and further project SC/ST community persons in very negative shade,” the complaint reads. “The act of the accused person is clearly with an intention to... provoke rioting and promote enmity between different religions and is prejudicial to maintenance of harmony."

“Despite the chief election commissioner being on record stating that misinformation is the biggest threat to democracy, they are doing little or nothing about it. It looks like the Election Commission (EC) is a new frontal ‘Election Morcha’ for the BJP…when they portrayed Rahul Gandhi holding a Pakistan flag etc., Instagram took the post down because of the public outrage. The EC, however, did not act,” said Priyank Kharge, the Karnataka minister for information technology.

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