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ECI Orders ‘X’ to Pull Down BJP’s Objectionable Video but Not Carried out

ECI Orders ‘X’ to Pull Down BJP’s Objectionable Video but Not Carried out

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, May 7: The Election Commission of India has asked the social media platform X to immediately take down an animated video post by the BJP Karnataka handle that depicted the Congress appeasing Muslims at the cost of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes.

However, the order has not been implemented even after 48 hours.

The video featured caricatures of Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge, advancing the party’s recent messaging that the Congress was diverting funds and resources away from SC/ST/OBC Hindus towards Muslims. As of May 7 evening, the post had garnered over 90 lakh views, and though the order was issued on May 5, had not yet been taken down.

In a notice to X’s nodal officer for India, a copy of which was published on the ECI website, the poll body said the video was “violative of extant legal framework [sic]”. The Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee had complained on May 5 that the video violated the Model Code of Conduct and Manoj Kumar Meena, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of the State, subsequently ordered X to take the post down.

The same day, the Karnataka Cybercrime Division ordered X to take the post down, a move the ECI said was directed by Mr Meena. “However, the post has not been taken down yet,” Anuj Chandak, a deputy director at the ECI wrote. “Therefore, ‘X’ is directed to take down the post immediately,” Mr Chandak wrote.

The post contained an animated video and the caption “beware… beware… beware..!” in Kannada. It showed a Rahul Gandhi character placing an egg labelled as “Muslims” within a nest with three eggs, which were smaller in size, labelled as “SC”, “ST” and “OBC”. After the eggs hatch, the character then proceeds to feed the “Muslim” hatchling with “funds.” The hatchling then grows and removes the other hatchlings out of the nest, with Rahul and a Siddaramiah character snickering.

The post comes in the wake of attacks on the Congress by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has in his campaign speeches accused the party of wanting to give Muslims reservation at the cost of SCs, STs and OBCs.

This video is one of three on this theme put out by the BJP recently. One other video posted by the Nizamabad, Telangana BJP candidate Arvind Dharmapuri on May 6 depicts the Congress leaders encouraging a Muslim getting on a boat and throwing SC/ST/OBC people out of the boat. The video remains on X and Mr Dharmapuri’s post has racked up over 1,90,000 views.

The first such video was posted by the BJP’s national handle on Instagram and the party took the post down even as the social media firm’s parent Meta was reviewing reports against it.

According to EC sources, the post was a violation of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which defines “corrupt practices” to include promotion of enmity between communities, castes and races. Sources said the EC took a serious note of the post not being removed despite a valid legal request by the Karnataka CEO’s office.

The EC’s nodal officer appointed under the Information Technology Act, 2000 wrote to X asking that the post be taken down “immediately”. The post was “violative of extant legal framework”, the EC wrote. It added that an FIR had already been registered in the matter and the Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer had written to X on May 5 directing the platform to take down the “objectionable post”. “However, the post has not been taken down yet,” the EC wrote.

The CEO, through the Cybercrime Division of Bengaluru Police, had written to X on May 5 asking for the post to be taken down “as it violates Model Code of Conduct enforced during the Lok Sabha elections 2024”. It cited Section 79(3)(b) of the IT Act and rule 3(1)(d) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, which pertains to takedown requests by authorised agencies. The cybercrime division warned “non-compliance of which may attract legal action”.

Polling in Karnataka was completed on Tuesday in the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections.



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