Is PM Modi worried about the wealth of his cronies?

Why did the PM say a Congress government would seize private wealth, gold, silver, even mangalsutras, and redistribute them among Muslims?

Narendra Modi at the Rajasthan rally (photo: PTI)
Narendra Modi at the Rajasthan rally (photo: PTI)

AJ Prabal

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, 21 April lied (there is no other word for what he said) at an election rally and said the Congress manifesto this year promises to seize the wealth, gold and silver of Indians (read rich Hindus) and redistribute them among infiltrators and people who produce more children (read Muslims).

He repeated the claim today at an election rally in Muslim-majority Aligarh, but omitted the reference to Muslims.

The Congress manifesto, of course, says nothing of the kind. In fact, the party’s manifesto nowhere mentions the words Hindu or Muslim, and the PM and his team must be aware of it. The manifesto was released on 5 April and the PM and other BJP leaders have been attacking it from day one itself, initially saying there was the imprint of the Muslim League on every page of the manifesto.

The prime minister’s speech at Sunday's rally in Rajasthan was clearly a pre-meditated and planned assault on the truth. The question is, why? Why would a man said to be a most powerful and popular world leader, who is convinced of his return to power, find it necessary to resort to a malicious lie? He would have known that his lie would be called out and complaints would be filed with the Election Commission of India (ECI) by the Congress.

Of course, he may well be sure that the ECI will take no action. The commission has the power to debar him from campaigning for two, three or more days. It has taken such steps before. Therefore, it invests the ECI with no credit that 24 hours after the speech, and even after parties like the CPI(ML) and the Congress have filed written complaints, it is yet to take note of the serious breach.

The prime minister may also have been confident that the mainstream media and TV channels would not amplify his lie or the outrage it has triggered. A number of civic bodies and individual citizens have been sending emails to the ECI demanding action citing various violations of electoral laws and codes.

As probably anticipated by the PM though, the ECI has been quiet. His remarks are already making ripples internationally, which no doubt will be dismissed as another conspiracy against him.

The question is, why would the prime minister of the world's largest democracy, if not the oldest and the most perfect, risk opprobrium and take recourse to a blatant lie?

A lie he compounded by referring to a statement by former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh in December 2006 made to the National Development Council, in the context of the Sachar Committee Report submitted in November.

However, neither the prime minister's office nor the BJP’s IT cell have been shy in justifying the lies. Neither the ‘edited’ summary in English put out on the website nor the IT cell have denied the utterance. IT cell chief Amit Malviya, in fact, posted on Monday: “It is clear as daylight that Congress wants to take away our wealth, wealth of the poor and marginalised, SCs, STs, savings of the women and redistribute it, specifically amongst the minorities, like Congress UPA had wanted to. They can’t run away from their own promises now that they have been called out”.

Former Union minister P. Chidambaram put out the following posers: Will the BJP tell the world:

a) When and where did the Congress say that we will distribute people's land, gold and other valuables among Muslims?

b) When and where did the Congress say that a survey will be conducted to value the property of individuals, gold held by women and silver owned by tribal families?

c) When and where did the Congress say that land and cash belonging to government employees will also be distributed?

There are two explanations, among the many on offer, which appear more plausible. One, that the PM, disappointed with reports after the first phase of polling and the low turnout, is going all out to polarise voters and motivate them to vote in larger numbers.

The other explanation is that the prime minister is actually spooked because of potential inquiries against his crony ‘wealth creators’. While the Congress manifesto does not mention redistribution of wealth, it does voice concern at the growing inequality and injustice done to the poor and deprived. A progressive taxation policy with richer Indians paying more is what he seems more worried about.

Modi, who has stalled inquiries against the Adani Group in particular, appears to be spooked at the possibility of the next government taking back from his cronies the assets that he has distributed by flouting, twisting and changing the rules.

After 10 years in office, it should be clear that PM Modi’s heart beats for ‘wealth creators’ and his buddies, and not for poor and deprived Indians.

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Published: 22 Apr 2024, 6:58 PM