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Modi vents rig ire, returns ‘tiger’ fire

BJP candidate Babul Supriyo with Narendra Modi in Asansol on Sunday. Picture by Amit Datta

May 4: Narendra Modi today chastised the Election Commission for failing to check “rigging and violence” on April 30 as he addressed a rally in Bengal, and reminded the panel of its duty as a “neutral umpire”.

His comments come at a time media reports about large-scale rigging in Bengal have put the commission’s performance under the scanner, and state Opposition parties have accused special observer Sudhir Kumar Rakesh of failing to ensure free and fair polls.

“I know that the April 30 polls were rigged…. Will this game continue?” Modi told a crowd on Asansol’s Polo Ground while campaigning for BJP candidate Babul Supriyo.

Police officers estimated the crowd strength at 1.5 lakh-plus which, if true, would be a record for the venue and make the rally Modi’s biggest in Bengal this poll season. The turnout at Mamata Banerjee’s rally at the same venue on Wednesday would not have crossed 10,000, they said.

“You failed to contain rigging; you failed to contain violence. Please discharge your responsibilities properly,” Modi said in his sharpest attack yet on the poll panel.

“So much money is being spent; the entire government machinery is under you — you have more power than the Prime Minister. Then why aren’t you acting? What are your intentions?”

His 35-minute speech again highlighted Modi’s knack for identifying local issues likely to draw the loudest cheers. “I want the Election Commission to ensure, like a neutral umpire, that the last two phases of the polls (on May 7 and 12) are conducted in a free and fair manner,” he said.

Modi, who had ripped into Mamata at his April 27 Serampore rally — dropping his earlier policy of restraint on her — argued that voting the BJP to power at the Centre would hand Bengal a double benefit.

“If there’s a strong government in Delhi, she (Mamata) has to forgo the drama and work. If I work hard, Didi has to work harder and the people of Bengal will have a rasgullah in each hand. Let there be a competition.”

He had an explanation for Mamata’s persistent attacks on him, too. “Didi starts her day with Modi and ends with Modi…. Now I realise that she is angry with me because of your love,” he said, referring to the huge turnout under a scorching sun.

Met office sources said that at 11.30am, the temperature in Asansol was 34°C and the discomfort index, which also factors in humidity, was a very high 60. By the time Modi began speaking around 1.10pm, the temperature had risen to 40°C.

The weather was equally harsh in Bankura but, according to police sources, a nearly 50,000-strong crowd heard his 22-minute speech from around noon, lapping up his anti-Mamata tirade.

Today, he did not mention the auction prices of Mamata’s paintings — his allegation in Serampore about a Rs 1.8-crore selling price had prompted Trinamul to threaten a defamation suit. But he again highlighted the Saradha scam.

Modi also referred to Mamata’s recent comment that the state’s “royal Bengal tigers” were more than a match for a “paper tiger” like Modi.

“I’m surprised that Didi is so scared of paper tigers. What will happen when the real tigers arrive? Real tigers are those who will send the guilty in the Saradha (case) to jail,” he said.

Modi, who had promised “stern action” on Saradha in his Serampore speech, added: “Sometimes I wonder what sort of government allows companies to launch operations. Leaders pose for photographs and give blessings to companies so that they can loot poor people’s money.”

MODI’S MATH AND SOME LOOSE ENDS

Narendra Modi on Sunday cited the following figures, attributing them to the Sachar Committee Report, to claim that Muslims are better off in Gujarat than in Bengal. According to Modi, he listed the figures to counter those who chant “secularism” whenever he refers to “development” or governance

HAJ

Gujarat

Number of people eligible for partial government subsidy on airfare every year: 4,000

Actual applicants: 40,000

Bengal

Annual quota:12,000

Actual applicants: Less than the quota

Modi’s conclusion: Better economic conditions allow more Muslims in Gujarat than in Bengal to apply for the pilgrimage

Fact check:

According to Mehboob Ali, the chairman of the Gujarat Haj Committee, the annual quota in his state is 4,700, not 4,000 as Modi said. The discrepancy is not large enough to derail Modi’s assertion but it strengthens a perception of scant respect for facts and figures

PER CAPITA INCOME

Per capita income of Muslims in rural Gujarat: Rs 700 a month

Per capita income of Muslims in rural Bengal: Rs 500 a month

Per capita income of Muslims in urban Gujarat: Rs 900 a month

Per capita income of Muslims in urban Bengal: Rs 700 a month

Fact check:

Details continue to be a weak point. The Sachar report mentions monthly per capita
consumption expenditure, a better indicator of economic empowerment as it reflects spending power, and the figures more or less match those cited by Modi. Modi described the figures as“per capita income”, possibly a slip-up since he was waving the papers on which the figures were presumably jotted down while he was speaking.

Modi’s researchers also appear to have favoured Gujarat while rounding off the figures — unless they were sourced from some other report that Modi did not mention. Modi put the Gujarat urban
figure at Rs 900 but Sachar report mentions Rs 875 for 2004-05. Modi said the Bengal figure was Rs 700 but the Sachar report shows Rs 748 for 2004-05.

Same with rural figures. Modi said Rs 700 for Gujarat while the report says Rs 668. For Bengal, Rs 501 in the report becomes Rs 500 on Modi’s lips. Nit-picking but that’s what numbers are all about.

BANK DEPOSITS

Average bank deposit for a Muslim in Gujarat: Rs 35,000

Average bank deposit for a Muslim in Bengal: Rs 11,000

Fact check:

The Sachar report puts the annual average for three years (2002-05) at Rs 32,932 for Gujarat and Rs 13,828 for Bengal

SENIOR GOVT OFFICERS

Over 8.5 per cent senior government officers are Muslims in Gujarat, where the community
accounts for 8 to 9 per cent of the population

Only 1.2 per cent senior government officers are Muslims in Bengal, where the community
accounts for 20 to 22 per cent of the population

Fact check:

The Sachar report puts Muslims in government jobs at 5.4 per cent and those in Bengal at 2.1 per cent.

The Telegraph could not find data on “senior government officers”. According to the 2001 census, Muslims account for 26 per cent of the population in Bengal. The census figure
actually would have helped Modi illustrate his point better

Primary education

Over 60 per cent Muslims get primary education in Gujarat

Less than 50 per cent Muslims get primary education in Bengal

Fact check:

The Sachar report puts this figure at 74.9 per cent for Gujarat and 50.3 per cent for Bengal in 2001

CAVEATS

Average figures do not always capture the truth. But it cannot be denied that a lot remains to be done for the comprehensive welfare of Muslims in Bengal

Some social scientists do not give credit to Modi for the relatively better position of the minorities in Gujarat. “The traditionally rich Bohra, Khoja and Memon communities in Gujarat, who have been into merchant activities for generations, cannot be compared with the Muslims in Bengal, a significant majority of whom are dependent on agriculture,” said Maidul Islam, associate professor of political science at Presidency University

The Sachar report was released in 2006. So, the figures cannot be taken as a reflection of the Mamata government which took over in 2011. Modi also suggested his criticism covered other secular parties such as the Left and the Congress.


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