Modi can’t win polls without EVMs, ED, CBI, IT: Rahul Gandhi

At a rally in Mumbai, the Congress leader accused the ruling dispensation of subverting democratic institutions  

March 17, 2024 11:28 pm | Updated March 18, 2024 12:48 pm IST - Mumbai:

Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi during the INDIA bloc rally at Shivaji Park in Mumbai, Maharashtra, on March 17, 2024.

Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi during the INDIA bloc rally at Shivaji Park in Mumbai, Maharashtra, on March 17, 2024. | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini/ The Hindu

Launching a fierce criticism against the Narendra Modi-led BJP government, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday said Mr. Modi could not win the Lok Sabha elections without electronic voting machines (EVMs), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Income Tax department.

He accused the ruling dispensation of subverting democratic institutions. “Mr. Modi can’t win elections without EVMs, ED, CBI, and I-T. We asked the Election Commission to count the VVPAT also. But our demand hasn’t been accepted,” Mr. Gandhi said.

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray said Shivtirth (Shivaji Park) was chosen to overthrow the dictatorship in New Delhi. “The BJP is like a balloon; we had inflated it but unfortunately, we only filled air in that balloon to help it fly higher,” he said. “Abki baar, BJP tadi paar [This time, let’s finish BJP],” the former Chief Minister of Maharashtra said.

Addressing the opposition INDIA bloc rally at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park, a day after the conclusion of his Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, Mr. Gandhi said their fight was not against a party or one man, but against a shakti (power). “People think we are fighting against one party or one man — Prime Minister Modi. No, we are not. Our fight is against a shakti. Like someone said, this king’s [Mr. Modi] soul is in EVM, true. Even in every institution, ED, CBI, and I-T,” he said.

In a show of strength, INDIA bloc leaders gathered for the massive rally preceding the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, scheduled to commence in seven phases starting from April 19. The leaders urged people to exercise their franchise cautiously saying a third term for Mr. Modi would ensure that the upcoming Lok Sabha polls would be the last elections in the country. They said the BJP wanted over 400 seats to change the Constitution. The CPI(M) and the CPI boycotted the rally, claiming that it was a Congress function and there was no need for them to attend it. The Left is opposing Mr. Gandhi’s candidature from Wayanad seat in Kerala against the CPI candidate, stating that the Congress leader should fight against a BJP candidate.

Also Read | Electoral bonds are ‘white-collar corruption’ of the BJP, says Stalin

‘Monopoly over corruption’

Mr. Gandhi accused Mr. Modi of being a puppet serving a hidden power, questioning his leadership and integrity. “He is a ‘mask’ who works for a shakti [power]. He is a shallow man who doesn’t have a 56-inch chest,” the Wayanad MP said, alleging that the Prime Minister had a “monopoly over corruption”.

Mr. Gandhi pointed out political manoeuvres within parties such as the Shiv Sena and the NCP, hinting at coercion into alliances. “Do you think the Shiv Sena and the NCP people split and joined the ruling alliance just like that? Opposition leaders are threatened to join the BJP. They are held by the neck and forced to join the party,” he said.

In an oblique reference to former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who joined the BJP recently, the Congress leader said: “A leader from Maharashtra cried in front of my mother Sonia Gandhi, saying he felt ashamed that he could not fight this power anymore and didn’t want to go to jail.”

Mr. Gandhi said Mumbai’s Dharavi could compete with the Chinese city of Shenzhen and become a manufacturing hub, but the government was not letting it happen, referring to the plan to redevelop the slum sprawl by the Adani Group.

The city holds a historical significance as a place where Mahatma Gandhi gave a call of Quit India movement in 1942. Now it’s time to say, “Quit BJP”, Nationalist Congress Party (SP) supremo Sharad Pawar said. “The current state of India demands a change. Those who deceived our citizens with false promises under various schemes to tribals, youth, farmers and poor, but failed to deliver, must be weeded out of power. To oust them, we must unite and fight together,” the Maratha strongman said.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin described Mr. Gandhi as the future hope of India. “Mr. Modi calls INDIA bloc corrupt, but the electoral bonds scheme proved that the BJP, which collected ₹8,000 crore through bonds, is corrupt. Electoral bonds is the ‘white collar corruption’ of the ruling BJP and our alliance will form a secular, federal and inclusive government at the Centre,” he said.

Speaking at the rally, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav said, “They [BJP] are using tools like ED and CBI to threaten parties, break unity in parties and then poach the same people into their party they had threatened once. We have come together to defeat the ideology that is trying to break the country and not Mr. Modi. They have never hoisted the national flag in their party office, and they call themselves the biggest patriots. He [Mr. Modi] goes under water, sits on carpet, poses for pictures but does not talk about corruption. Laluji [RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav] is still ready to deal with Mr. Modi.”

Mr. Yadav said the Prime Minister was the manufacturer, wholesaler and distributor of lies and false promises. “In Maharashtra, they only took legislators, but in Bihar they hijacked my uncle [Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar]. I challenge PM Modi to give guarantee of my chacha [uncle] first that he won’t turn again,” said Bihar’s former Deputy Chief Minister.

Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) chief and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar attended the rally but did not categorically spell out if he was a part of the opposition alliance. “Whether together or alone, we need to fight. Bengal has gone separate ways. Here there are attempts to come together,” he said, referring to Trinamool Congress head Mamata Banerjee’s plan to go solo in West Bengal in the general elections.

Promising to end the voting by EVM and make the Election Commission an independent body, National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah called EVM machines “chor” and urged the people to check the VVPAT slip after casting their votes in the Lok Sabha elections. “Kashmir to Kanniyakumari and Manipur to Mumbai; this is our India. We have the power to vote, and we should take it as our responsibility to save this country. When the yatra started from Kanniyakumari and ended in Kashmir, it was snowing in Kashmir and many of the members had never seen snow in their lives. This is our India. One cannot see India by sitting in New Delhi. India resides in the rural. Mr. Gandhi has hugged those who were never hugged before,” the former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister said.

Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti took a dig at the BJP and said, “People of the ruling party are scared of the surname ‘Gandhi’ as history has seen all the Gandhis from Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi to Rajiv Gandhi sacrificing for this country. He has Gandhi in his name and that is the reason the BJP is scared of him. Today, I can see people with different thoughts and ideas here. This is ‘India.’ The election is all set to begin; the public has the most powerful weapon of the Constitution and that is the ‘vote’.”

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, the party’s general secretary Priyanka Vadra, Jharkhand Chief Minister Champai Soren, his predecessor Hemant Soren’s wife Kalpana Soren, Aam Aadmi Party leader Saurabh Bhardwaj, Telangana Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy, Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar, Rajasthan former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and other INDIA bloc leaders were present.

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