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Modi Leads the Way in Amplifying Falsehoods About Congress Manifesto

Shinjinee Majumder
Apr 23, 2024
One must note that the manifesto does not talk about redistribution of the wealth in the country, let alone among any particular community

Congress on April 5 unveiled its Lok Sabha 2024 election manifesto, the ‘Nyay Patra’, in Delhi in the presence of party president Mallikarjun Kharge, Parliamentary party chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and other leaders. The document foregrounds the idea of ‘nyay’ or justice and talks about ‘Paanch Nyay’ or five pillars of justice, namely ‘Yuva Nyay’, ‘Naari Nyay’, ‘Kisaan Nyay’, ‘Shramik Nyay’ and ‘Hissedari Nyay’.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 9 compared the document to the Muslim League manifesto. Addressing a pre-poll rally in Pilhibit, he stated, “The manifesto that Congress has made looks more like a manifesto of the Muslim League. Whether it’s Congress or the Samajwadi Party, under the pressure of appeasement, they oppose the CAA. My Hindu and Sikh brothers and sisters who are forced to flee due to persecution on foreign soil,… tell me – if India doesn’t grant citizenship to them, who else will?”

On April 21, Modi targeted the Congress manifesto again while addressing a rally in Rajasthan’s Banswada. He said, “When they (the Congress) were in power, they said that Muslims had the first right to the properties of the state. This means that they would collect these properties and give them to the ones who have more kids (insinuating Muslims). They will give it to the ghusapethyon (infiltrators). Do you want to give away your hard-earned money to the intruders? This is what the Congress manifesto says — the amount of gold that mothers and daughters own will be measured, collected and distributed. They will distribute their wealth among those…(smiles) Manmohan Singh ji had said Muslims had the first right to the properties.”

In other words, the claim that the PM made in this section of his speech was that the Congress manifesto spoke about redistribution of wealth among Muslims, as pledged in the past by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who apparently said that Muslims had the first right to the country’s wealth.

Other BJP leaders have shared similar sentiments, including party president JP Nadda, who released a statement accusing Congress of ‘reflecting the ideology of the Muslim League’ and claimed that the party manifesto talked about reservation based on religion, akin to the Muslim League in 1929. Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma stated that the manifesto seemingly aimed to serve Pakistan more than India.

Also read: What the BJP’s Manifesto Doesn’t Say – And the Congress’s Does

These claims were then echoed by the Right-Wing ecosystem online, who went all out trying to prove that the manifesto was meant to appease the Muslims. Right-Wing influencer Rishi Bagree tweeted about this issue several times, highlighting how the Congress Manifesto was flawed. Verified user Rashaun Sinha, a.k.a, @MrSinha_, also tweeted about the manifesto several times. In one, he tweeted a screenshot of a report on the Congress Manifesto by Pakistani outlet Dawn, remarking that Pakistan was pleased with the document since it ‘reminds them of Jinnah’s Muslim League’. In another tweet, he sarcastically commented that he raised Allah-hu-Akbar slogans after reading the manifesto.

An explainer video by The Pamphlet also drew comparisons between the Muslim League and the Congress. Another verified user, @Starboy2079, listed 13 ‘dangerous’ points in the Congress manifesto, which apparently made it resemble the ‘PFI 2047 vision document.’ The tweet garnered over 400000 views, over 8000 likes and 4500 retweets.

Here’s a list of claims circulating on social media regarding the Congress manifesto. According to these narratives, the manifesto aims to appease Muslims by:

  • Abolishing the Citizenship Amendment Act
  • Restoring triple talaq
  • Reserving positions for Muslims and implementing the Sachchar Committee Report
  • Supporting Love Jihad
  • Allowing burqas in schools
  • Ending majoritarianism and consequently Hinduism
  • Banning bulldozer actions
  • Increasing the number of Muslim judges in the judiciary
  • Introducing a Communal Violence Bill which would stop mob lynchings
  • Legalizing consumption of beef
  • Providing separate loan interest rates for Muslims
  • Allowing acts of treason

Furthermore, users have also claimed that the Congress party apparently supports the legalization of same-sex marriages, promotes gender fluidity and the trans movement and also ‘supports’ Gaza and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Does the Congress manifesto speak about wealth redistribution?

To begin with, the Congress manifesto does not mention the redistribution of wealth among the citizens of the country. But it is worth noting that the manifesto speaks about the rising inequality between India’s top 1% and the rest of the country. Citing the report “Income and Wealth Inequality in India, 1922-2023: The Rise of the Billionaire Raj”, the manifesto also mentions that this rise in inequality has been particularly pronounced between 2014 and 2023.

Under the ‘Economy’ section, the manifesto explicitly rejects the trend of jobless growth and job-loss growth. It declares that the Congress government would address the issues of growing inequalities of income and wealth among others.

Under the Welfare subsection, the document addresses the issue of division among the people of India in economic terms. The manifesto declares that the Congress would strive to ensure that the 22 crore people below the poverty line are lifted above the line in the next decade. This would require accessible education, healthcare, housing, drinking water, sanitation, electricity and especially opportunities for jobs. It declares that the implementation of these promises would achieve the goal of ushering in a ‘fair, just and equitable economy that will make India a rich country, and that will be resilient to adapt to a changing world’.

One must note that the manifesto does not talk about redistribution of the wealth in the country, let alone among any particular community

It is pertinent to note here that Rahul Gandhi did mention redistribution of wealth at a public rally in Hyderabad, after releasing the manifesto. He said, “We will first conduct a nationwide caste census to determine how many people belong to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and minorities. After that, we will conduct a financial and institutional survey in a historic step to ascertain the distribution of wealth,”. But, he also mentioned that the party would ensure representation of all communities in all sectors and that Congress would ensure that people got their rightful share.

Echoing this, under the Social Justice section, the manifesto refers to inequality in the representation of the SC, ST communities and OBC and says, “No progressive modern society should tolerate such inequality or discrimination based on ancestry and the consequent denial of equal opportunity.”

Also read: The Congress Manifesto Marks a Welcome Return to Authenticity

We also spoke to Pawan Khera, the chairman of the media & publicity department of the All India Congress Committee, who downright refuted the claims levelled by the Prime Minister. “Nowhere does our manifesto either mention the words Hindu Muslim or wealth redistribution among citizens. It is a challenge to the PM to find these words in our manifesto”, he said.

In connection to the above claim, PM Modi also quoted former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as saying that Muslims had the first right to the country’s wealth. “This means that they would collect these properties and give them to the ones who have more kids (insinuating Muslims). Will your hard-earned money be given to infiltrators? Do you accept this? The Congress manifesto is saying this.”

Below is a transcript of what former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said on December 9, 2006:

“I believe our collective priorities are clear: agriculture, irrigation and water resources, health, education, critical investment in rural infrastructure, and the essential public investment needs of general infrastructure, along with programmes for the upliftment of SC/STs, other backward classes, minorities and women and children. The component plans for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes will need to be revitalized. We will have to devise innovative plans to ensure that minorities, particularly the Muslim minority, are empowered to share equitably in the fruits of development. They must have the first claim on resources.”

BJP, the-then Opposition, zoomed in on the word ‘minorities’ and accused the Singh-led government of playing vote-bank politics. The Prime Minister’s office then released a clarification with the transcript of Singh’s speech. “It will be seen from the above that the Prime Minister’s reference to “first claim on resources” refers to all the “priority” areas listed above, including programmes for the upliftment of SCs, STs, OBCs, women and children and minorities… While better off sections of society will benefit from this process, it is the responsibility of the Government to pay special attention to the welfare of weaker and marginalized sections. The Prime Minister has said on several occasions that “India must shine, but shine for all,” the clarification read.

So, it is clear that the claim made by Modi in relation to the Congress manifesto in his Rajasthan speech — that it talks about redistrbution of wealth among Muslims echoing ex-PM Manmohan Singh’s words — is FALSE at two levels. Neither does the manifesto talk about it, nor did Singh state what PM Modi claims he did.

Has the 2024 Congress manifesto promised to abolish the Citizenship Amendment Act?

The accusation that the Congress manifesto speaks of abolishing the Citizenship Amendment Act is unfounded. There is no mention of the CAA anywhere in the 2024 Lok Sabha poll manifesto.

In fact, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan took this opportunity to question Congress’s ‘reprehensible silence’ on the issue. Speaking to the media on April 6, Vijayan made the point that the manifesto of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had pledged to scrap “draconian laws” such as the CAA, Prevention of Money Laundering Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, among others. He stated that the Congress’s silence on these issues implied that the party was not serious in their fight against the Sangh Parivar and their Hindutva agenda.

It is worth noting that the 2019 Congress manifesto did vow to withdraw the Citizenship Amendment Bill. Point 09.a. under Section 27: Federalism and Centre-State Relations promised to repeal the infamous Citizenship Amendment Bill in the interest of the northeastern states. The same promise was made again in the third point of section 38 of the 2019 manifesto.

Does the Congress manifesto indulge in Muslim appeasement?

If one were to search for the word ‘Muslim’ in the manifesto, one would not find a single reference specifically to Muslims in the document. In this section, Alt News will attempt to categorically analyse the claims made by the Right Wing ecosystem concerning the manifesto.

Does the manifesto promise jobs separately for Muslims?

Many of the social media claims mentioned at the beginning of the story state that the manifesto promises to reserve jobs specifically for Muslims. Some claims also mention the implementation of the Sachar Committee Report which aims to inquire into the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community.

It must be noted that there is no mention of allocating jobs only to the Muslims. The third point under the Equity section of the manifesto promises to implement the 10% reservation in jobs and educational institutions for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), for all castes and communities without discrimination. This does not cater only to Muslims.

Also read: A Comparison of Congress and BJP Manifestoes And What They Fail to Mention

Additionally, there is no mention of implementing the Sachar Committee Report.

Claims were made that Congress would raise the reservation cap for SC/STs/OBCs above 50%, and there were insinuations that separate seats would be reserved for Muslims.

While it is true that the manifesto guarantees to pass a constitutional amendment to raise the 50% cap on reservations for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) in the second point under the ‘Equity’ section, there is no specific mention of Muslims.

The manifesto also vows to double the funds for scholarships for OBC, SC and ST students, especially for higher education. It vows to aid SC and ST students to study abroad; and double the number of scholarships for them to pursue a PhD (Point 9 under the ‘Equity’ section). It also promises to enact a law to provide for reservations in private educational institutions for SC, ST and OBC (Point 13, Section ‘Equity’).

Does the manifesto promise to bring back Triple Talaq?

As has been stated in the beginning, several users have made this particular claim.

Triple talaq (instant divorce) is a means of Islamic divorce wherein a Muslim man can legally divorce his wife by proclaiming three times consecutively the word talaq (the Arabic word for “divorce”) in spoken, written or electronic form. This practice was struck down by the Supreme Court in August 2017, calling it ‘unconsitutional’.

In the eighth point under the Religious and Linguistics Minorities section of the manifesto, the party vows to encourage the reform of personal laws. It further states that such reform would be undertaken with the participation and consent of the communities concerned.

There is no specific mention of Triple Talaq anywhere in the manifesto. It is thus misleading to say that the Congress would bring back triple talaq.

Does the manifesto support ‘love jihad’, the consumption of beef or the use of burqas in schools?

None of the words ‘Love Jihad’, ‘beef’ or ‘Burqa’ have been mentioned anywhere in the manifesto. The seventh point under the Religious and Linguistics Minorities section vows to ensure that, like every citizen, minorities have the freedom of choice of dress, food, language and personal laws. The eighth point of the section, Defending The Constitution, also promises not to interfere with personal choices of food and dress, to love and marry, and to travel and reside in any part of India. “All laws and rules that interfere unreasonably with personal freedoms will be repealed.”

Does the manifesto talk about ending majoritarianism and consequently hinduism?

At the end of the manifesto, there is a mention of how majoritarianism has triumphed over constitutional values in the country. It is said that as the poor and the middle class suffer, the atmosphere in the country has become “hate-filled and divisive”. Congress in its Lok Sabha 2024 election manifesto “promises to lead the country towards a path of all-round development, equality, freedom and justice if voted to power.”

The preamble to the Religious And Linguistic Minorities section also mentions Congress’ belief that there is no place for authoritarianism or majoritarianism in the country, given the history and democratic traditions of India. It strongly promotes the uniqueness of the plurality of religions and the right for every citizen in the country to enjoy the right to practise one’s religion freely.

At no point does the manifesto speak about ending Hinduism. On the contrary, it emphasises the fundamental right of the citizens to practise their religion.

Does the manifesto allow treason?

The manifesto does not have a single mention of the words ‘treason’ or ‘sedition’. What it does promise is the de-criminalisation of the offence of defamation and providing a speedy remedy by way of civil damages. It also promises to remove the provisions that restrict Freedom of Speech and Expression and violate the right to privacy. The manifesto also promises to uphold the people’s right to assemble peacefully and to form associations. The first point promises a ‘freedom from fear’. (Section: Defending the Constitution)

Does the manifesto ‘Ban bulldozer action? Is there a ‘communal violence Bill that will stop mob-lynching?

In short, the party has condemned ‘bulldozer justice’. In the sixteenth point under the section of Defending the Constitution, the manifesto states that the party, if brought into power, would put an end to it, along with weaponisation of laws, arbitrary searches, seizures and attachments, arbitrary and indiscriminate arrests, third-degree methods, prolonged custody and custodial deaths.

While there is no specific mention of a ‘communal violence bill’, the Internal Security section of the manifesto mentions that Congress is ‘firmly opposed’ to extra-judicial illegal measures like mob lynching, police encounter killings and bulldozer justice. The party vows to ‘stop them immediately and punish the perpetrators in accordance with law’.

It also addresses the increase in crimes against women, SC, ST and minorities and declares that Congress would deal with hate speeches, hate crimes and communal conflicts with a firm hand. “We will identify the perpetrators of such crimes as well as their sponsors and punish them in accordance with law”, the manifesto states.

Does the manifesto promise to increase muslim judges? Does it promise to lower interest rates on loans for muslims?

There are no mentions of subsidised rates of interest on loans for Muslims or an increase in the number of Muslim judges in the judiciary. The manifesto vows to ensure the appointment of more women and persons belonging to the SC, ST, OBC and minorities as judges of the High Courts and the Supreme Court. (Section: Judiciary, Women’s Empowerment)

It is abundantly clear from the above analysis that the Congress manifesto does not exclusively focus on Muslims. However, it is crucial to note that the manifesto pledges to safeguard dignity of life for the minority communities at a time when minorities have repeatedly come under attack in this country for their way of life. It promises them the freedom of choice of dress, food, language and personal laws, a feature that many observers feel are absent under the current dispensation. In January, the international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch reported that the BJP-led Union government in 2023 continued policies that stigmatized and discriminated against religious and other minorities. It also stated that the police in BJP-ruled states did not investigate crimes against minorities properly and punished the victim communities instead, including those who protested against such abuse.

Does the manifesto call for supporting Hamas?

The second point under the Foreign Policy section of the manifesto mentions the digression of the consensus on foreign policy under the BJP/NDA government, “notably on the ongoing Gaza conflict”. “Congress pledges to restore India’s global reputation as a voice of peace and moderation in world affairs”, the document reads. It does not show any form of solidarity towards the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Does the manifesto promise to legalise same-sex marriage, and support gender fluidity and the trans movement?

Under the Senior Citizens, Persons With Disabilities, and LGBTQIA+ section of the manifesto, the manifesto pledges to bring a law to ‘recognise civil unions between couples belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community’. Furthermore, the same section also states that it would expand Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, disability or impairment.

However, there’s no explicit mention of legalising same-sex marriages, ‘gender fluidity’ or the ‘trans movement’.

This article was originally published on AltNews.

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