India's Election Commission Criticized for Inaction Against BJP's Divisive Claims

India's Election Commission faces criticism for inaction against PM Modi and the ruling BJP over divisive claims made during the general election. The opposition has lodged 10 complaints, alleging false and provocative statements, including a controversial animated video that demonizes Indian Muslims.

Trim Correspondents
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India's Election Commission Criticized for Inaction Against BJP's Divisive Claims

India's Election Commission Criticized for Inaction Against BJP's Divisive Claims

The Election Commission of India (ECI) is facing mounting criticism for its perceived inaction against the ruling party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over divisive claims made during the country's ongoing general election. Opposition parties have accused the BJP of using communal rhetoric and misrepresenting their positions to sow sectarian division and gain electoral advantage.

Why this matters: The integrity of India's democratic process is at stake, as the ECI's inaction could embolden politicians to use divisive tactics, undermining the country's social fabric and threatening its stability. If left unchecked, such rhetoric could have long-term consequences for India's religious minorities and the country's ability to maintain social cohesion.

The Congress party-led opposition has lodged 10 complaints against Modi and key aides since April 6, alleging they made false and provocative statements. Congress lawmaker Abhishek Manu Singhvi said theECI's delay in action against the rulingBJP has led to an"unchecked and brazen continuation of these violations"with"impunity and utter disregard. "Former Election Commissioner SY Qureshi expressed concerns that any damage to the ECI's reputation will cause"incalculable harm to the legitimacy of India's democracy."

A controversial animatedvideo with claimsposted by the BJP's Karnataka state unit on May 4 has sparked particular outrage. The video, titled "Beware... Beware... Beware..!" in Kannada, depicted opposition Congress politicians feeding "funds" to a bearded chick in a skullcap hatching from an egg labeled "Muslims". It was viewed over 9 million times before being taken down on May 7 after the ECI asked social media platform X to remove the post. Critics say the video demonizes Indian Muslims and is part of a wider BJP narrative suggesting the Congress plans to redistribute Hindu wealth to Muslims if elected.

Modi himself has repeatedly made divisive remarks on the campaign trail, falsely claiming the opposition wants to take away reservation quotas from disadvantaged Hindu castes and tribes and give them to Muslims instead. The law does not permit religion-based reservation. In speeches across India, Modi has focused heavily on Muslims, whom he has referred to as "infiltrators". Some analysts believe this is a deliberate strategy to generate anti-Muslim sentiment and remind BJP's Hindu nationalist base of their core ideology.

There have also been reports of voter suppression tactics targeting women in BJP-ruled states like Uttar Pradesh. Allegations include wrongful deletion of Muslim names from voter rolls, police harassment of Muslim voters, and making voting difficult in Muslim-heavy areas. A 2023 academic paper had previously flagged concerns about targeted disenfranchisement of Muslim voters enabled by lax election monitoring.

On May 10, the ECI rejected allegations by Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge of discrepancies in voter turnout data, calling his claims "devoid of facts" and a "biased and deliberate attempt to spread confusion." Kharge said the ECI's strongly-worded response was "beyond description" and "deeply regrettable". A plea has also been filed in the Delhi High Court seeking immediate action against Modi and others for alleged hate speech violating the Model Code of Conduct. The court will hear the matter on May 13.

As India's general election enters its final stretch, with the last phase of voting on June 1 and results due June 4, theElection Commissionfaces increasing scrutiny over its handling of the highly charged and polarizing campaign. Critics argue the ECI's relative inaction has allowed the BJP to pursue a divisive agenda with impunity, undermining the integrity of the electoral process in the world's largest democracy. The coming days and weeks will be crucial in determining whether the ECI takes more decisive steps to rein in furtherviolations by the PMand safeguard its reputation as an impartial arbiter.