India BJP’s election videos targeting Muslims and opposition spark outrage

Published May 6, 2024
A cut-out of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party placed on a pillar outside a shop in Ahmedabad, India on May 6. — AFP
A cut-out of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party placed on a pillar outside a shop in Ahmedabad, India on May 6. — AFP

Animated videos shared by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party targeting the opposition Congress and the Muslim community have evoked complaints and outrage, as the political climate in India heats up midway through its six-week long election.

The videos, shared by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on social media platforms Instagram and X over the last ten days, depict the Congress giving disproportionate benefits to India’s minority Muslim community, at the cost of certain disadvantaged tribal and Hindu caste groups.

The Congress, in a complaint to the poll watchdog Election Commission, said on Sunday that the video was shared “clearly with an intention to wantonly provocate rioting and promote enmity between different religions”.

A set of guidelines mutually adopted by political parties for how they should conduct themselves during the election period prohibits them from creating “mutual hatred” between caste, religious or linguistic groups.

Manipulated videos on social media have also become a contentious issue in this election, such as fake videos showing top Bollywood stars criticising the prime minister.

On Monday, the commission warned parties against the misuse of AI tools to create deep fakes and told them not to publish and circulate such videos. It also said parties had been directed to remove such content within three hours of it being brought to their notice.

Modi, the face of the Hindu-nationalist BJP, seeking a rare third consecutive term, had focused his campaign largely on his government’s performance on economic growth and welfare benefits.

But he changed tack after the first phase of voting on April 19 and his campaign speeches have since become more polarising on religious lines, accusing Congress of planning to redistribute the wealth of the majority Hindus among minority Muslims, who he called “infiltrators” who have “more children”.

The videos shared by the BJP over the last ten days, one of which has since been taken down, illustrated the same message.

A 17-second video shared by a state unit of BJP on May 4, with over 8.5 million views, shows a character resembling Congress leader Rahul Gandhi feeding “funds” to a bird in a skullcap, which eventually pushes out from their common nest three other birds representing other disadvantaged groups.

The Congress has filed a police complaint against BJP leaders for the video, BJP’s head of information and technology Amit Malviya said on X.

“The Congress should in fact thank the BJP for taking their manifesto to the people in a manner that even they couldnt,” he wrote.

The video has elicited outrage. Nitasha Kaul, a politics professor at London’s Westminster University said on X that the video was a “straightforward 1930s Germany style cartoon”.

Congress, in its election manifesto, has promised to tackle India’s economic inequality by conducting a socio-economic caste census and extending affirmative action. It said it will ensure that minorities receive “their fair share” of education, economic and healthcare opportunities.

An Election Commission spokesperson, the BJP’s Malviya and Congress spokespersons did not respond to requests seeking comment.

Opinion

Editorial

Bad measures
Updated 25 Jul, 2024

Bad measures

They do not seem to have realised that they have put the country’s best interests at risk.
Hamas-Fatah deal
25 Jul, 2024

Hamas-Fatah deal

THE Beijing Declaration signed in the Chinese capital on Tuesday reiterates the need for internal Palestinian unity...
Rating risks
25 Jul, 2024

Rating risks

FINANCE Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb’s recent discussions with the executives of the two top global credit rating...
Reforming militants
24 Jul, 2024

Reforming militants

Such initiatives have been tried before, in Swat for instance, at centres run by the military as well as NGOs.
IPP debate
24 Jul, 2024

IPP debate

A FIERCE debate blaming the exorbitant electricity prices on expensive power purchase agreements with IPPs has been...
Political vendettas
24 Jul, 2024

Political vendettas

IT seems that the PML-N and PPP need to be reminded again that they are doing themselves a considerable disservice ...