Selection of Indian cricket teams on religious basis?

At an election rally in MP, PM Modi can be heard making yet another highly unlikely, even absurd, claim. Could it be a deepfake?

PM Narendra Modi addresses a public meeting in Madhya Pradesh on 7 May (photo: PTI)
PM Narendra Modi addresses a public meeting in Madhya Pradesh on 7 May (photo: PTI)

A.J. Prabal

Surely even Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot possibly accuse a future Congress government of planning to select the Indian cricket team on the ground of religion? A viral video clip shows the PM doing precisely that while addressing a meeting in Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday, 7 May.

The Congress, the PM says, is now planning to give preference to minorities even in sports. He then proceeds to elaborate. “What it means is that now cricket teams will also be selected on the basis of religion. I would like to ask the Congress today, if that has been your intention all along, then why didn’t you hand over India to Pakistan in 1947 itself? Why did you have to divide ‘Bharat Mata’ in three parts?” He seemed to be alluding to the Partition in 1947 and the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.

The PM has been speaking in similar vein for the past several weeks and has said that a Congress government will take away the wealth, jewellery, houses, and even buffaloes and distribute them among minorities. He has rarely shied away from identifying Muslims, though his speech in Madhya Pradesh today identified "minorities" as the beneficiary of this discriminatory policy.

"Is the prime minister mad?" Sam Pitroda, chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, had fumed when the PM claimed that Congress governments would steal even the mangalsutra, the traditional necklace many Hindu women receive when getting married, and wear it as long as they remain married. Commentators have also wondered why the PM is increasingly sounding like he is mentally unhinged.

However, this seems to be part of a carefully crafted strategy, since the entire BJP echo-system has on cue been drumming such falsehoods to attack the Congress manifesto. Repeating a lie a hundred times clearly makes it believable, or that is what the PM’s think tank believes.

It has certainly served the purpose of diverting attention from the actual promises made by the Congress in the manifesto, and forced the Opposition to keep denying the claims. The more the denials, however, the stronger the conviction of Modi bhakts that something must be amiss. Modi ne kaha hai toh kuchh soch samajh kar kaha hoga (if Modi is saying so, he must have thought about it), has been a long-standing refrain among them. Will it be effective? The result on 4 June will show.

Police check voters’ ID in UP

Media channels and the Opposition INDIA bloc shared video clips of cooperative banks still open at midnight on poll-eve in Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh police checking voter ID cards and driving away voters from polling booths, telling them their Aadhaar cards were fake.

The videos began emerging on social media on Tuesday even as voting was in progress in the third phase of polling. The first videos were from Sambhal Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh. They appeared to suggest that state police stationed in large numbers at certain booths were stopping voters and checking their voter ID and Aadhaar cards and sending some of them away. At one of the booths, a large number of voters are seen exiting hurriedly from a school gate, allegedly after a lathi charge.

The videos prompted people to ask whether it was the job of the police or the polling personnel to check voters’ ID in booths. Surely it was for the polling personnel to check and decide who was allowed or not allowed to cast their vote? If five of the 10 per cent of eligible voters at five per cent of the booths are prevented from casting their votes, their uncast votes can then be, theoretically at least, cast by the polling personnel after the end of polling. It does not seem to be a coincidence when most of the voters being turned away by the police are said to be Muslims.

This also raises questions about the efficiency of the Election Commission of India. Voters, mainly Muslims, complain during every election that some names from their families are not found in the electoral rolls. Voters who were able to vote in the Assembly election and continued to reside at the same address mysteriously found their names missing when it comes to the general election.

Moreover, the commission deploys an army of observers, flying squads and Central security forces to ensure that voting remains peaceful. They have, however, evolved no system of recording who or how many of the voters turn up at the booth but are turned away for one reason or the other. It surely is not rocket science to make such a provision and make it work?

Banks open at Baramati past midnight

Rohit Pawar, nephew of Maratha veteran Sharad Pawar, on Tuesday claimed to have filed as many as 250 complaints with the Election Commission regarding various irregularities in the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency, where Sharad Pawar’s daughter and sitting MP Supriya Sule is pitted against her cousin and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar’s wife Sunetra.

The BJP and Ajit Pawar, an ally in the NDA, did go all out to wrest the seat. So much so that BJP state president Chandrashekhar Bawankule told voters that the state government would release funds for the constituency only if it elected Sunetra Pawar, forcing the Election Commission to issue a notice. Bawankule will undoubtedly deny the allegation and contest it but in the meanwhile, his purpose of influencing a section of voters is served.

Speaking to independent journalist Sohit Mishra, Rohit Pawar in fact alleged that Ajit Pawar had been distributing Rs 2,500-3,500 to each voter. Citing the example of some of the bank branches working until well past midnight on the days preceding polling day, he alleged that this was a safer and more convenient system of transferring large sums of money to the constituency from outside.

He went on to allege that Rs 500 currency notes had dried up in the banks for ordinary people and that police vehicles were being used to transport the currency from the banks.

It should be easy for a fair and competent Election Commission, which deploys several observers to every constituency, to check the veracity of such claims and order an inquiry. But will the truth ever come out?

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Published: 07 May 2024, 8:59 PM