BJP MLA Ramesh Katara reportedly intimidated voters while campaigning for Union minister Jasvantsinh Bhabhor, who is contesting from Dahod, reported ANI. “You will see the photo of Jasvantsinh Bhabhor and the lotus symbol on the EVM, look for that and press the button. There should not be any room for error as Modi sa’ab has installed cameras this time,” he allegedly told a gathering on April 15.
BJP MLA from Fatehpura, Ramesh Katara: You’ll see the photo of Jaswant Sinh Bhabhor (BJP candidate from Dahod) & Lotus symbol on the EVM, look for that & press the button. There should not be any room for error as Modi sa’ab has installed cameras this time. #Gujarat (15.04) (1/2) pic.twitter.com/bEKEYRIa4R
— ANI (@ANI) April 16, 2019
Katara, who represents Fatehpura in the Gujarat Assembly, went on to say that it is possible to see who voted for the BJP or the Congress. “Who voted for BJP, who for Congress, it can be seen. Aadhaar Card and all cards have your photo now, if there are fewer votes from your booth then he will come to know who did not cast vote and then you will not get jobs,” Katara said, according to news agency ANI.
The comments immediately drew backlash from the opposition parties and netizens. The RJD tweeted that such threats could not be taken lightly.
Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) said this kind of intimidation cannot be ignored. “This is how helpless citizens are intimidated into voting for them. This cannot be ignored,” the RJD said in a tweet in Hindi.
“Who voted for BJP, who for Congress, it can be seen. Aadhaar Card and all cards have your photo now, if there are fewer votes from your booth then he will come to know who did not cast vote and then you will not get jobs,” Ramesh Katara said.
Another Twitter user asked: “Dear election commission, do you have any idea about these cameras BJP MLA Ramesh Katara is talking about?”
Others immediately pointed towards citizens’ right to privacy — which the Modi government have often been accused of violating in the last five years.
Last year, the government came in for severe criticism for violating privacy following an order that allowed 10 central agencies to decrypt, monitor and intercept “any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer”. The government, however, rubbished the allegations of snooping, saying it was an UPA-era order.
Besides, the Modi government’s aggressive push to make Aadhaar mandatory has been largely seen as a move to undermine the right to privacy of individuals.
The latest incident comes close on the heels of Union minister and senior BJP leader Maneka Gandhi’s BJP election speech in in Uttar Pradesh’s Sultanpur where she was heard saying that Muslims who did not vote for her should not expect any help from her.
She claimed that she was already winning the seat “with or without” the support of Muslims, but if she found out an area had not voted for her, it would leave a bitter taste. “Then when a Muslim comes to me for work, I think let it be,” she had said.
In another remark in Pilibhit, the minister said she will categorise different villages in her constituency as per votes registered for BJP, and will then prioritise development accordingly, ANI reported on April 15.
“The village where we get 80 per cent votes is A, the village in which we get 60 per cent is B, the village in which we get 50 per cent is C and the village where we get less than 50 per cent is D. The development work first happens in all A category villages. Then comes B…” Her son Varun Gandhi is contesting from Pilibhit.
Later on April 15, the Election Commission banned her from campaigning for 48 hours hours as punishment.