Opposition Raises Alarm Over Election Integrity, Alleges ‘Match-Fixing’ by Modi Government

Featured & Cover Opposition Raises Alarm Over Election Integrity Alleges 'Match Fixing' by Modi Government

With just over two weeks remaining until the commencement of the 17th Lok Sabha elections, the Opposition INDIA bloc staged a rally on Sunday, igniting a discourse that is anticipated to deepen the divisions in the forthcoming contentious campaign: it cast aspersions on the integrity of the electoral process itself.

In a manner tantamount to questioning the validity of the poll process, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of attempting “match-fixing” — essentially, manipulating the election mechanism in favor of the ruling BJP. Furthermore, he issued a foreboding caution regarding the potential repercussions.

“If the BJP prevails in this rigged election and subsequently alters the Constitution, it will plunge the country into chaos… this nation will not endure… This is not a routine election. It’s about safeguarding the nation, defending our Constitution,” Rahul asserted.

Indeed, the focal point of the “save-democracy” Opposition rally at the Ramlila ground was precisely this concern. Convened primarily to protest against the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on March 21, one leader after another contended that democracy would be imperiled and the Constitution endangered if the Modi government regains power.

The event witnessed the participation of top leadership figures from the Congress — party chief Mallikarjun Kharge, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul, and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra — alongside NCP (SP) chief Sharad Pawar, RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, and Shiv Sena (UBT)’s Uddhav Thackeray.

A majority of the speakers accused the Government of operating in a “dictatorial and arrogant” manner. Referring to the BJP’s “ab ki baar 400 paar” slogan, senior RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav remarked, “They are making claims… setting targets… it seems as though the EVMs have been tampered with in advance.”

In fact, three out of the five points in the charter of demands, as outlined by Priyanka at the conclusion of the rally, pertained to the fairness of elections.

The demands included: “The Election Commission of India must ensure a level playing field in Lok Sabha elections; ECI must halt the coercive actions by IT, ED, and CBI against Opposition political parties; immediate release of Hemant Soren and Arvind Kejriwal; immediate cessation of coercive actions aimed at financially crippling political parties in the Opposition during the elections; establishment of an SIT, under the supervision of the Supreme Court, to probe allegations of quid pro quo, extortion, and money laundering by BJP using Electoral Bonds.”

Since its establishment in June 2023, the Opposition coalition had frequently accused the Modi government of stifling democracy and flouting Constitutional norms. However, it is arguably the first instance where some of the leading figures of the alliance have, from the INDIA bloc platform, expressed apprehensions regarding the fairness of the ongoing election process.

“You must be familiar with the concept of match-fixing. When a match is unlawfully won by influencing umpires, purchasing players, coercing the captain… it is termed match-fixing in cricket. We are facing Lok Sabha elections. Who appointed the umpires? Narendra Modi. Even before the match commenced, two players (Kejriwal and Soren) from our team were detained… Narendra Modi is attempting to fix these elections,” Rahul asserted.

“The country is witnessing match-fixing… everyone can see it… Narendra Modi has appointed individuals within the Election Commission… two chief ministers have been incarcerated… you have frozen our bank accounts… you desire to prevent the Opposition from contesting elections… hence you have frozen the bank accounts of the Congress, planted your representatives in the EC… you are exerting pressure on the judiciary… because you wish to rig the match… the Constitution is being disregarded, and you seek to retain power,” he continued.

He contended that the BJP would be incapable of achieving the claimed “400 seats” without resorting to EVM tampering, match-fixing, influencing and purchasing social media and the press… they wouldn’t even surpass 180 collectively. Rahul’s tirade came in the wake of the Congress’s allegation that the Income Tax authorities had issued notices demanding a total of Rs 3,567 crore in taxes.

During a previous press conference with Sonia and Kharge earlier in the week, Rahul had accused the BJP of financially crippling the party on the eve of elections and had proclaimed that the “notion of India being a democracy is a sham.” On Sunday, he escalated his rhetoric significantly.

“This match-fixing isn’t solely orchestrated by Narendra Modi alone. It is orchestrated by Modi and three or four of India’s billionaires in unison… that’s the reality,” he stated, adding that the match-fixing is aimed at wresting the Constitution from the impoverished citizens of India.

“India cannot survive without the Constitution… Our Constitution represents the voice of the people; it is the heartbeat of India. India cannot endure without it. States will fragment… And that’s their objective… If the BJP triumphs in this rigged election and subsequently amends the Constitution, the entire nation will be engulfed in flames. This nation won’t endure (if the BJP wins this match-fixing election and changes the Constitution afterward, it will set the country on fire… This is not an ordinary election. This election is to save the country, protect our Constitution),” he asserted.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra evoked the Ramayana to drive home a political message: “When Lord Ram fought for truth, he lacked power, resources, or even a chariot. Ravan possessed chariots, resources, an army, and golden Lanka, but Lord Ram had truth, hope, belief, love, kindness, modesty, patience, courage, and truth. I want to convey to those in power and Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the essence of Lord Ram’s life is that power is transient; it comes and goes, and arrogance is eventually shattered.”

Significantly, most leaders made fleeting references to bread-and-butter issues like unemployment, inflation, and MSP for farmers, maintaining their focus on the overarching theme of democracy in jeopardy for the day.

Thackeray expressed apprehensions about the country veering towards dictatorship, asserting that it is not merely an apprehension anymore, but a reality. He argued that the “one party, one person” government poses a threat to the nation, emphasizing the necessity for a coalition government that respects and honors the aspirations of every state and region.

Tejashwi also contended that there exists an “undeclared Emergency” in the country, alleging that the government has adopted a “dictatorial and arrogant” stance. “They lack faith in the Constitution. They seek to implement Nagpuria law… they endeavor to execute the RSS agenda,” he claimed.

While DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin — whose speech was conveyed by his party colleague and Rajya Sabha MP Tiruchi Siva — remarked that “history demonstrates that nobody has prospered through tyranny” and that “people will never tolerate the nefarious machinations of tyrants,” Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’Brien framed the struggle as “BJP versus democracy.”

O’Brien’s party colleague and TMC Rajya Sabha MP Sagarika Ghose affirmed that the Trinamool Congress stands firmly with the INDIA bloc. “We understand the challenges faced by the AAP and Arvind Kejriwal

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