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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Dec 2014

Dirty tricks help parties take campaigning to new low

Chetan Chauhan , Hindustan Times  New Delhi , April 28, 2014
First Published: 23:33 IST(28/4/2014) | Last Updated: 21:04 IST(29/4/2014)

If this poll battle has sunk to a new low, it’s because of the helping hand of the dirty tricks departments of political parties.

These wings of the Congress and the BJP have in the past few weeks worked hard to fling mud at each other.

The BJP attacked Congress president Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra with a video on his alleged land deals in Haryana and Rajasthan on Sunday. The Congress hit back the next day with pictures and a video showing BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi with alleged Surat-based hawala operator Afroz Fatta. Minutes later, the BJP retaliated by circulating a picture of Fatta and Congress MP Mohammad Azharuddin.

Read: Congress releases CD, links Modi to Hawala accused

Officially, political parties of course deny having any dirty tricks department but in reality they employ tech-savvy professionals who look for material that can publicly embarrass their party’s rivals.

“Any video or picture coming out in the election season is not a knee-jerk reaction but a well-planned move. Sometimes it takes months to find concrete evidence against an opponent. Using it at an appropriate moment is the work of a clever political mind,” said a political functionary who once was part of his party's dirty tricks department.

BJP leader Amit Shah's hate-speech that debarred him from campaigning for a week would not have gone public if the Congress hadn’t seized upon the opportunity. Shah sought “revenge” for the Muzaffarnagar riots at a closed door meeting with local Jat leaders and it was recorded. The video was then provided to some TV channels allegedly by Congress workers.

Read:  EC notice to Amit Shah over 'revenge' comment

This was the Congress’ revenge for its Saharanpur candidate Imran Masood landing in jail after his hate-speech against Modi went viral. The six-month-old video was dug out by the BJP's Uttar Pradesh unit headed by Shah.

Congress insiders said the party has a dedicated team to track every speech of Shah and BJP sources disclosed that the party keeps tabs on Congress leaders like Beni Prasad Verma and Salman Khurshid, who are prone to spouting controversial comments. While the Congress coordinates its dirty tricks from Delhi, the BJP does it from Lucknow and Ahmedabad.

Political parties also employ dirty tricks at the local level, especially to field namesakes against their rivals.

For example, there were 11 Chandu Sahus in the fray from Chhattisgarh's Mahasamund constituency from where Congress leader Ajit Jogi is a candidate. All Chandu Sahus, except the BJP candidate, had something in common. Their security deposits were paid in currency notes with similar serial numbers and the BJP’s Chandu Sahu accused Jogi of fielding them to confuse voters. 

In a large number of constituencies in Kerala, many candidates had to face namesakes. In Kasargode, there are two candidates with the same surname: T Siddique from the Congress and an independent candidate called A Siddique.

“Finding a namesake is no problem. One just has to look at the electoral rolls,” said a Congress leader.

Full coverage: My India my vote


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