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#PollVault: 'Cloud Cover' Gaffe Doesn't Stop Modi from Using National Security Plank

A repository of the day's major election-related developments.

New Delhi: A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ended up a laughing stock on social media for claiming that he prodded the Indian Air Force to strike at a terrorist hideout in Balakot on a rainy day because the fighter jets wouldn’t be caught in the Pakistani radar due to the cloud cover, he continued undeterred, sticking to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s poll strategy for the 2019 general elections woven around the Pakistan-terrorist-national security axis to accumulate votes.

Campaigning in Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar, which will see voting in the last phase of the elections on May 19, Modi referred to the army’s recent cordon and search operation in the Hindsitapur area of Shopian district in Jammu and Kashmir following a tip-off about the presence of terrorists.

“Some people are asking why Modi killed terrorists when voting was underway? They (the terrorists) were standing in front (of the soldiers) with bombs and guns. Would my soldiers go to the Election Commission to seek permission to shoot? Since I came to Kashmir, every second or third day, clean-ups have been taking place. This is my clean-up operation,” Modi said at the rally.

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The continuity of script could be traced to another rally in the state held during the day. At Deoria, Modi said that the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party “can’t fight terrorism”.

“These people can’t even control roadside goons, how will they combat terrorism? Meanwhile, vote-cutter Congress’s defence policy encourages terrorism and Naxalism.”

Later Modi tweeted a video clip from his address, “I asked the people of Uttar Pradesh, who can give a fitting reply to terrorism, listen to their answer.”

Though on May 11 a seemingly embarrassed BJP deleted from its Twitter handle the video clip from Modi’s interview to News Nation where he made his ‘cloud cover’ claim, the prime minister had held on to the national security narrative and posed himself as the only strongman in these elections.

Modi’s poll speeches underline that the party doesn’t want to veer too much into its five-year governance or the policies adopted therein, be it the decision to bring demonetisation or the Goods and Services Tax, roll out Skill India, Digital India, Make in India, Swachh Bharat or the promise made to voters in 2014 to create jobs. Even the assurance to settle the oldest insurgency in the country – the Naga issue – the signing of a framework agreement for which was touted by Modi in August 2015 as “historic”, has been left behind.

Tiptoeing around his rule, Modi told voters in a rally in Indore on May 11, “In the last five years, we particularly concentrated on introducing technology and transparency (in governance) which has benefitted the country.”

In the May 11 poll rallies, Modi also stuck to his party’s other election tactic – that of personalising attacks on the opposition. Speaking in Kushinagar, he picked on BSP chief Mayawati by referring to the Alwar rape case. “Behenji, you will have to answer, why didn’t you withdraw support to Rajasthan’s Congress government after a Dalit daughter was gangraped in the state? You are shedding crocodile tears by only making statements.”

He also added, “Both bua-babuwa (Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party) were the state chief ministers for a shorter period than I was (of Gujarat). But both worked only for the welfare of their respective families; forgot the public…I have only one jati (caste), it is garibi (poverty).” That Modi hammered on ‘garibi’ as his only ‘caste’ (jati), seemingly a jibe at Mayawati for questioning his backward caste status recently, also hinted that the caste calculations of the BJP in UP need a possible expansion to find a common connect – poverty.

Also read: Democracy Is Not a Monologue: Rahul Gandhi’s Self-Effacing Critique of Modi

Mayawati retorted to Modi’s accusation in a statement, “Why didn’t Modi resign from his post taking the moral responsibility of the Una case, the Rohith Vemula case and the number of Dalit atrocities that keep occurring in BJP-ruled states?”

In the same fashion, Modi continued his personal attack on Congress president Rahul Gandhi. Responding to Gandhi’s continuous statements to media in the recent days that while Modi promotes hatred, the Congress’s policy is to spread love, the prime minister said in UP, “They (Congress leaders) hurl abuses at me every day. They hurt all types of abuses at me. They bring dictionaries of love from all over the world and hurl abuses at me after putting a veil of love on them.” He also added, “Someone may reach a certain position due to family connection but one needs experience and vision to be successful.”

Sixth phase voting

In the interim, voting in the sixth phase of the elections took place in 59 constituencies across six states besides Delhi. With 14 seats in UP, 10 in Haryana, eight each in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, seven in Delhi and four in Jharkhand witnessing voting, the fate of several bigwigs including Akhilesh Yadav, Maneka Gandhi, Digvijay Singh, Sheila Dikshit and Jyotiraditya Scindia was decided.

Voters waiting in line in Ambala during the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha polls on Sunday. Credit: PTI

While Delhi recorded 60% voting, 5% less than the 2014 general elections, West Bengal registered over 80% polling. However, several incidents of clashes between the ruling Trinamool Congress and BJP workers marred the day in the state. Reports said BJP chief Dilip Ghosh faced protests from locals when he tried entering a polling booth in his constituency, Midnapore. BJP candidate from Ghatal, former IPS officer Bharati Ghosh, also faced a mob attack after she was found roaming in her car near some polling booths without permission. Reports said police seized her vehicle. The mob, which pelted stones at the police too, tried surrounding Ghosh, due to which she had to take shelter in a local temple along with her guards.

Re-polling was also reported from one booth in Puducherry and 168 polling stations in Tripura.