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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 19 June 2024

Opposition sniffs opportunity in Supreme Court order on electoral bonds to bash PM Modi

The court ruling has the potential to blunt the Prime Minister’s attempts to portray the Opposition combine as corrupt and burnish his own credentials as a crusader against graft

Sanjay K. Jha New Delhi Published 17.03.24, 05:57 AM
Rahul Gandhi during the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Maharashtra on Saturday.

Rahul Gandhi during the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Maharashtra on Saturday. PTI photo

The Supreme Court order stipulating a complete disclosure of electoral bond data has come as a windfall for an Opposition that had been relying mainly on Narendra Modi’s failures on jobs and prices and the farmer discontent to build its poll campaign.

The court ruling has the potential to blunt the Prime Minister’s attempts to portray the Opposition combine as corrupt and burnish his own credentials as a crusader against graft.

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While Modi’s failure to have black money repatriated, selective use of investigative agencies and indiscriminate embrace of tainted politicians from other parties had provided some ammunition to the Opposition parties, the electoral bond disclosures can help them target his personal image.

Minutes before the Election Commission began its news conference on Saturday and urged campaigners to maintain decorum, Rahul Gandhi was telling people in Mumbai: “Hafta leta hai (They take protection money). You might have seen goons taking hafta here. Modi was running an international-level extortion racket.”

While Rahul has been alleging an Adani-Modi nexus in his speeches over the past few years, his focus this time was on a 25-point justice regime that includes five
guarantees relating to farmers, the youth, women, workers and social justice.

But the sudden eruption of the electoral bond controversy has encouraged Rahul to rip into Modi’s political persona, an attempt he had made also before the 2019 general election but without success.

Before wrapping up his 63-day Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, which reached Mumbai on Saturday after covering 6,000km from Manipur, Rahul questioned Modi’s credentials as an anti-corruption campaigner.

“Modi used to boast about his fight against corruption. Now it’s been found that he had unleashed the CBI-ED and the income-tax (department) on industries and extorted donations from them,” he said.

“(Government) contracts and projects were used to share commissions and claim cuts. Shell companies were used to fill the BJP’s coffers. Modi steals your money 24 hours.”

Rahul added: “During Covid, when around 50 lakh Indians died, when people were struggling to cope with their dead relatives, Modi told them, ‘Taali bajao, light jalao (Clap, light lamps)’. And the vaccine company, Serum Institute, was paying crores of rupees to the BJP.”

Rahul said: “He broke parties like the NCP and the Shiv Sena using money earned this way. He weakened India’s armed forces by introducing the Agniveer scheme. Only Adani is flourishing. And who is Adani? He is Modi. You may call them Modani.”

The Congress is delighted that the announcement of the elections has coincided with the conclusion of the Nyay Yatra, with a mega Opposition rally scheduled for Sunday to kick off the formal campaign.

Senior Opposition leaders, usually at the receiving end in debates on corruption, are expected to attack the Prime Minister using electoral bond data at the rally.

Congress communications chief Jairam Ramesh has countered Union home minister Amit Shah’s explanation that the electoral bond donations received by the BJP have been bigger because the party is bigger.

Ramesh has argued that the Opposition parties received lower donations because they neither controlled the ED, CBI or the income-tax department, nor had the power to award lucrative contracts.

He has accused the BJP of amassing huge money through illegal means while conspiring to cripple the Congress financially by having its bank accounts frozen.

After the announcement of the poll schedule, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said: “This election will decide how this country will be run — under democracy or tanashahi (dictatorship). People have been waiting for this election to oust a government that has violated every constitutional principle and morality.”

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