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EC bars two BJP newspaper ads after Grand Alliance’s complaint

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New Delhi: The Congress and Janata Dal-United, who are a part of Grand Alliance in Bihar, and the BJP on Friday approached the Election Commission accusing each other of disturbing the communal harmony in the state during the ongoing five-phased assembly polls.

The former alleged that the BJP was “promoting lies, false propaganda and communal tension” through advertisements in the ongoing Bihar elections.

Meanwhile, acting on the Grand Alliance’s complaint, the poll panel on Friday barred two newspaper advertisements of the BJP.

“In the ongoing Bihar elections, the BJP has been promoting lies, false propaganda, and communal tension through advertisements. This has vitiated the electoral process by promoting communal tension,” said a memorandum submitted to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi by Congress leaders Randeep Surjewala and Ajoy Kumar and JD-U’s K.C. Tyagi.

To buttress the claim, the memorandum included texts of some of the advertisements.

“As you will see from these ads, it is a shameless attempt at spreading false propaganda and creating communal tension by the use and misuse of select words in ambiguous contexts, that could be interpreted by multiple factions for inciting violence between communities,” said the memorandum.

Giving examples, the memorandum said: “An ad states that the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal-United, and Congress leaders are giving sanctuary to terrorists to appease a particular community for votes. The name of the particular community becomes clear when seen in the context of a previous advertisement that spoke about the Muslim community’s appeasement by the RJD, JD-U and Congress by robbing the plate of Dalits.”

“The advertisement further alleges Bihar government’s role in the delayed arrest of (Indian Mujahideen’s alleged terrorist) Yasin Bhatkal from the Nepal border. It questions if the delay was to allow a national traitor to escape or to make a particular community feel the government’s benevolence. The connection between letting Bhatkal escape and a community is done only to connect Bhatkal with the Muslim community,” the memorandum added.

“The advertisement alleges that due to the negligence of JD-U leaders, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) terrorists are thriving in Bihar. The usage of the word thriving again may be called innocuous, but reeks of an intentional ambiguity to label all minority population of Bihar as being those of LeT and ISI allegiance,” it added.

Meanwhile, the BJP on Friday knocked on the doors of the Election Commission blaming the JD(U)-RJD-Congress of making attempts to disturb communal harmony in Bihar during the ongoing five-phased assembly polls.

The memorandum blamed Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, Janata Dal-United’s Nitish Kumar and Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Lalu Prasad for flaring up communal sentiments in the state.

“The RJD-JD(U)-Congress are trying to disturb communal harmony in Bihar Assembly elections for last several days,” a memorandum submitted to the Election Commission by BJP said.

The memorandum was signed by union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, BJP General Secretary Arun Singh, Sudhanshu Trivedi, Sambit Patra and Siddharth Nath Singh.

The letter quoted Rahul Gandhi saying in an election rally: “The BJP wants to get votes by making Hindu and Muslims fight each other.”

It also blamed RJD chief Lalu Prasad, and JD(U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

“Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar have been making provocative and personal statements against the BJP leaders to communally polarize the situation in Bihar,” it said.

BJP also took on Lalu Prasad for calling BJP president Amit Shah a “man-eater”.

“Statements of Lalu Yadav against Amit Shah that “man-eater has become mad”, calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi “brahma-pishach” are highly condemnable and such statements violate election code of conduct and provisions of the Representation of the People Act,” the BJP said.

“These statements are a conspiracy to disturb communal harmony in the state.”

The BJP urged the Election Commission to ensure free and fair elections in Bihar and monitor the conspiracy of the RJD-JD(U)-Congress behind such statements.

“The Election Commission should take strict action against such statements,” it added.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Brazil’s President Bolsonaro Faces First Defeat in Congress

The defeat on the floor of the house came one day after Bolsonaro fired a senior minister amid a scandal.

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Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro arrives at the inauguration ceremony of the new president of the Parliamentary Front of Agriculture (FPA), at the Clube Naval, in Brasilia, Jan. 19, 2019. VOA

Brazil’s lower chamber handed right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro his first defeat in Congress on Tuesday, the day before his government presents its most important legislative proposal to rein in a gaping budget deficit and spur growth.

The house voted overwhelmingly to suspend an executive order by the Bolsonaro government that altered Brazil’s freedom of information law to broaden the number of officials allowed to designate data and documents as secret or ultra-secret.

Lawmakers voted 367 to 57 to fast-track a bill overturning the secrecy measure and government whips were unable to muster votes to avoid defeat.

The bill must still be voted on by the Senate, but the reversal showed that Bolsonaro, who took office on Jan. 1, has not yet been able to organize a coalition in Congress to back his legislative agenda.

On Wednesday, Bolsonaro will send to Congress his plan to overhaul Brazil’s generous and costly pension system that eats up more than half of federal spending and is the main factor behind an unsustainable budget deficit.

Brazil, Bolsonaro
FILE – Gustavo Bebianno in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sept. 29, 2018. VOA

Approval of pension reform is vital for the recovery of investor confidence in Latin America’s largest economy.

The defeat on the floor of the house came one day after Bolsonaro fired a senior minister amid a scandal involving campaign financing for some of his party’s congressional candidates in the October elections.

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The ousted minister, Gustavo Bebianno, was instrumental in getting Bolsonaro elected but had a run-in with one of the president’s sons, triggering the weeks-old government’s first cabinet crisis.

In a note to clients, analysts at Eurasia Group said the scandal indicated the administration’s political team was in disarray, but they still expected the pension reform to get passed, albeit in a less ambitious version. (VOA)