During a television debate on Aaj Tak, Congress spokesperson Alok Sharma asked anchor Sweta Singh, “Is it acceptable to seek votes in the name of martyrs?” When the anchor said it was not, Sharma played the audio track of Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking first-time voters in 2019 to vote in honour of those who had conducted air-strikes in Balakot, Pakistan, and the ‘martyrs’ of the attack on Indian armed forces in Pulwama. (The video above combines Singh’s statement and Sharma’s response, without including the discussions in between.)

Sharma was referring to a speech made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019, when he had appealed to the first-time electors to dedicate their vote to Pulwama martyrs during a rally in Latur, Maharashtra. “I want to ask the first-time voter, can your vote be dedicated to those soldiers who conducted an air strike on Balakot in Pakistan?” he had asked. “Can your first vote be dedicated to those soldiers who were killed in the Pulwama attack?”

Narendra Modi's 2019 speech

The Election Commission of India responded to complaints stating that Modi did not violate its instructions against using references to the armed forces for electoral purposes.

Here is a video of the full debate.