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Election Tracker: BJP Chief Amit Shah Calls Congress Manifesto A 'Pack of Lies', An 'Insult' to India

Election Tracker LIVE: Addressing a poll rally in Odisha, BSP chief Mayawati has hit out at both Congress and BJP, saying one was embroiled in Bofors scam while the other now faces “Rafale scam”.


Updated:April 2, 2019, 11:38 PM IST
Election Tracker: BJP Chief Amit Shah Calls Congress Manifesto A 'Pack of Lies', An 'Insult' to India
Amit Shah at a rally on Tuesday.

Election Tracker: BJP president Amit Shah on Tuesday dubbed the Congress's election manifesto a "pack of lies" and said it was an insult to the country's people and its brave soldiers.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday claimed that his critics were spreading the rumour that the BJP will do away with quotas in government jobs and educational institutions if voted to power again. "Nobody can even touch reservations for the backward classes," Modi said at a rally in Jamui in Bihar.

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday attacked the Congress party and its manifesto released earlier in the day, claiming that Rahul Gandhi’s friends in the “tukde-tukde gang” had drafted parts of it. “Some of the ideas are positively dangerous in the Congress manifesto,” said Jaitley. “They are for an agenda for the vulcanisation of India.”

Addressing a poll rally in Odisha, BSP chief Mayawati has hit out at both Congress and BJP, saying one was embroiled in Bofors scam while the other now faces “Rafale scam”. “The way PM Narendra Modi's government implemented GST and demonetisation, in haste, it affected small businesses. This also led to increase in unemployment. The Congress was involved in Bofors and now BJP government is involved in Rafale,” she said.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, meanwhile, released the party’s manifesto for upcoming general elections, promising “wealth and welfare” for all sections. Apart from NYAY, the party’s minimum income guarantee promise, the manifesto promises increased employment and a separate budget for farmers, dubbed the Kisan Budget.

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had already announced that NITI Aayog, which replaced the Planning Commission, would be scrapped if the Congress comes to power. News agency ANI has also quoted Bhalchandra Mungekar, a member of Congress’s manifesto committee, as saying that the document promises probe into the Rafale fighter jet deal. “When we come to power, on the first day, we will initiate an inquiry into Rafale deal and we have included this in the manifesto (sic),” he said.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s decision to take down 687 pages and accounts linked to the Congress and a smaller number of pro-BJP accounts has added a new twist to the general elections less than 10 days before the first phase of polling. The action led to a war of words between the BJP and the Congress, with the former calling the move a "desperate" attempt to claim support and the latter disowning the accounts. While accounts/pages linked to the Congress party appeared to be large in number, the following or reach of pro-BJP accounts was several times more.

In a rare action against a prominent political party in a country that is home to 300 million users — the largest number of users in the world —Facebook said its investigation found individuals used fake accounts to disseminate views on local news and political issues and "criticism of political opponents including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)."

It also shared two examples of such posts - one that sought support for Congress president Rahul Gandhi by highlighting his idea of universal basic income for the poor, and the other that criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for opposing Congress' plan for giving poor an income of Rs 72,000 a year.

"While the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review found that it was connected to individuals associated with an INC IT Cell," Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook, said.

Facebook said it has also removed 15 pages, groups and accounts, whose owners "used a combination of authentic and fake accounts" to root for the government and the BJP and post content on alleged misconduct of political opponents including the Indian National Congress (INC).

"Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found that this activity was linked to individuals associated with an Indian IT firm, Silver Touch," it said.

While Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Congress was resorting to "dubious means" to claim support, the opposition party retorted back saying no official pages run by the party or its verified volunteers have been taken down.

In a statement on Twitter, the Congress said, "This is to clarify no official pages run by INC have been taken down. Additionally, all pages run by our verified volunteers are also unaffected. In the meantime, we are awaiting a response from Facebook to provide us a list of all pages/accounts that they have taken down."

On the other hand, Prasad said Facebook removing pages linked to the Congress is "a very historical development".

"When inquiry was done, it was found that those individuals were linked to Congress IT cell. Congress is desperate therefore resorting to these types of dubious means to claim support but people are sure of what they have seen of Narendra Modi govt," he said.

Asked to comment on the issue at an AICC briefing, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said: "We don't react off the back to news reports which may just be coming in. We would need to verify the veracity of this whether there are any Facebook pages which are linked to us."

Separately, Facebook said it had also removed another 227 pages and 94 accounts in India for violating its policies against spam and misrepresentation.

Gleicher said Facebook has removed 687 Facebook pages and accounts - the majority of which had already been detected and suspended by its automated systems - that engaged in "coordinated inauthentic behaviour" in India and were linked to individuals associated with an IT Cell of the INC.

"When we remove one of these networks, the reason we remove them is because of their coordinated inauthentic behaviour, that they are using a network of fake accounts to conceal their identity....to mislead who's behind them. That's the basic reason for removal," he told reporters.

"We are constantly working to detect and stop coordinated inauthentic behaviour because we don't want our services to be used to manipulate people. We're taking down these pages and accounts based on their behaviour, not the content they posted," he said.

Facebook, which has been facing flak globally for instances of a user data breach, has been ramping up efforts to ensure that its platforms (that includes WhatsApp and Instagram) aren't misused to spread misinformation, especially ahead of polls in India.

It has recently started providing details of political ads on its platform in a bid to enhance transparency. It is also strengthening its team of fact checkers and deploying technology tools to flag fake news.

In a blog post, Facebook said pro-Congress pages and accounts removed had spent around USD 39,000 for ads on Facebook while Indian IT firm Silver Touch spent $70,000 on ads.

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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