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Before game began, 2 players were arrested in BJP ‘match-fixing’: Rahul | Latest News Delhi

Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday made several references to cricket and claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was attempting to “match fix” the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, adding that if the PM is successful, the “Constitution would be finished”.

(From left) NCP (SP) chief Sharad Pawar, Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, Punjab chief minister and AAP leader Bhagwant Mann; and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah at the Ramlila Maidan on Sunday. (Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hit back, accusing Gandhi’s family — a reference to former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi — of “deal-fixing”.

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Addressing an Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) rally at Ramlila Maidan in central Delhi — a show of strength in the national capital that had all major opposition parties in attendance — Gandhi drew parallels between cricket and the alleged strategies being deployed by the ruling BJP and Modi ahead of the general elections.

“We are facing the Lok Sabha poll. This is the season of IPL. You have heard of match-fixing in cricket… In this election, PM Modi is also trying to fix the match. Who has picked the umpire? Narendra Modi. Even before the match started, two players (Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and former Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren) of our team were arrested,” Gandhi said.

“In this election, Modi is trying to do match-fixing. He has announced 400 seats (for the National Democratic Alliance). It is not possible without EVM, without match-fixing. Without social media and putting pressure on media, he won’t win even 180 seats,” he said.

Kejriwal was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on March 21 in connection with alleged irregularities in the Capital’s excise policy 2021-22, while Soren was arrested on January 31 in connection with a money laundering probe pertaining to an alleged land scam.

Reiterating allegations made by his party around 10 days ago, Gandhi said the bank accounts of the largest Opposition party — the Congress — have been frozen. “In the middle of elections, all our accounts are frozen. We have to run a campaign, and print posters. But accounts are closed,” he said.

The former Congress chief, who has previously alleged that the Centre was helping select corporates, touched upon the subject on Sunday as well. “The match-fixing is not done by Modi alone but also by 3-4 billionaires,” he said.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge also spoke about the incarceration of chief ministers — referring to Kejriwal and Soren — and termed the action taken by federal agencies a “jolt to democracy and the Constitution”, adding that the INDIA will fight to save both.

“We will fight till last breath to save democracy and the Constitution. Modiji made every illegitimate effort to prevent the Opposition from gathering. First, he put pressure on Hemant Soren to join BJP. When he did not agree, he was arrested. Meanwhile, attempts were also made to topple the governments of Jharkhand and Himachal,” said Kharge.

The Congress president said while the Congress faces Income Tax notices and for a cash deposit of 14 lakh, a penalty of 135 crore is imposed. “At the same time, no action is taken on BJP’s deposit of 42 crore (without proper name and address in Form 24A) for which a penalty of 4,600 crore should be imposed,” said Kharge.

While the Congress tried to incorporate a larger vision into INDIA’s rally and go beyond the arrest of Kejriwal, Kharge did mention that the Delhi chief minister “was arrested to suppress the news of Modiji’s scam.”

“After the revelation of the biggest ever election donation scam, the reality of BJP is in front of the whole world,” said Kharge, pointing out that the electoral bond scheme, which the BJP brought for transparency turned out to be a “scam”. Kharge claimed that the PM’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES) was a “doubtful” scheme.

The Congress president alleged that “ED, CBI and I-T are only working to bring down non-BJP governments and the leaders who joined the BJP, their files have been closed. Fair elections are the soul of democracy. It is most important to have a level playing field for all political parties.”

At the core of the rally remained the narrative of saving democracy and the Constitution which cut across the party lines of the INDIA bloc.

“If this Constitution is destroyed, the country won’t survive. The Constitution is the voice of the people, the heartbeat of the nation. They think without the Constitution, by threatening and intimidating us, they can run the country with police, CBI and ED. You (BJP) can pressure the media, but you cannot muzzle the voice of India,” Gandhi added.

In an apparent reference to BJP MP Anantkumar Hedge’s remarks made in March regarding “rewriting the Constitution”, Gandhi said: “A BJP MP had said that as soon as they win elections, they will change the Constitution… If the Constitution goes, the rights of the poor, the reservation system will go and the wealth of farmers and workers will go to select billionaires.”

Meanwhile, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who also marked her presence at the INDIA bloc’s rally, read out the five demands that are a part of the key outcomes of the “Loktantra Bachao Rally” in Ramlila Maidan.

“INDIA bloc has five demands. The Election Commission should ensure equal opportunity in the elections; the ECI should stop the forceful action against the Opposition taken by ED, CBI and IT; Hemant Soren and Arvind Kejriwal should be released immediately; attempts to weaken the Opposition financially should be stopped; and an SIT should be formed to investigate the funds raised by the BJP through electoral bonds,” Gandhi said.

Responding to Gandhi’s comments at the rally, BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla said, “Some people are talking about match fixing. In 1974, the Indira Gandhi government, compromising the country’s national interest and interest of the people of Tamil Nadu, handed over Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka to benefit the Congress’ first family…Rahul Gandhi ji, your family had done a deal-fixing.”

Poonawalla was referring to Katchatheevu, a small uninhabited island administered by Sri Lanka, that the BJP has claimed was “callously” ceded by the Indira Gandhi government to Colombo.

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