Congress lodges 7 complaints with EC against PM Modi between 2022-23; no action taken

All India Congress Committee filed 22 complaints against the PM between February 2019 and November 2023 with the Election Commission of India and only in 5 instances were action taken

The complaints ranged from issues like making personal attacks, using religious symbols, exploiting children in campaigns, and violating broadcasting rules. (photo: IANS)
The complaints ranged from issues like making personal attacks, using religious symbols, exploiting children in campaigns, and violating broadcasting rules. (photo: IANS)

Ashlin Mathew

The All India Congress Committee filed seven complaints with the Election Commission of India between February 2022 and November 2023 against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleging violations of the model code of conduct, however, the EC did not find the PM guilty in any of the cases. The party has filed 22 complaints against the PM between February 2019 and November 2023. This does not include the complaints filed by the state units.

The ECI has released an advisory warning political parties, especially star campaigners, to maintain decorum while campaigning and warned that those who had received notices in the past would be dealt with sternly. It had also censured Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for using the words such as “jebkatra” (pickpocket) and “panauti” (jinx) against the Prime Minister.

In its 1 March advisory, the EC states that star campaigners and candidates should not make “low level personal attacks to insult the rivals”. “Personal attack on political rivals and ridiculing the candidates of rival parties State Government publishing their welfare schemes in the neighbouring poll going states at opportune time,” states the EC.

In November 2023, Congress complained to the EC about the Prime Minister calling the Opposition leaders Murkhon ka Sardar [leader of fools] during the Rajasthan elections. It was a dig on Rahul Gandhi without taking his name.

The Commission has also put the star campaigners and candidates on a ‘notice’ in case of violations that followed the previously known methodologies during elections to avoid MCC. The Election Commission will assess any indirect MCC violations as per advisory as a fair basis to re-work the notices to be given in terms of time and content in issue in the forthcoming elections.

The EC elaborated that political parties should refrain from “use of inappropriate, abusive at times, vocabulary against star campaigners of other political party(ies)” and any such surrogate or indirect violation of the model code of conduct will be dealt with sternly.

The advisory also includes that no appeal should be made on the basis of caste/communal feelings of the electors and no activity, which could aggravate or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different groups should be attempted.

“The political parties and leaders shall not make false statements, utterances without factual basis aimed at misleading the voters,” states the advisory. Places of worship should not be used for election propaganda or electioneering, warned the EC, and no suggestions of divine censure can be made.

In May 2023, Congress had lodged a complaint against Modi for invoking the name of Lord Hanuman in the election rallies in Karnataka. Modi had been criticising the Congress for promising a ban on the right-wing organisation Bajrang Dal by equating it with locking up Lord Hanuman (Bajrang Bali). Modi had also chanted Jai Bajrangbali' in all his three speeches in Karnataka. In its complaint, Congress asked the Commission to warn Modi against using the names of Hindu Gods, in accordance with the election advisory.

In February, the EC had again warned political parties against using children in election campaigns in any manner, including by making them distribute posters or pamphlets or participate in shouting slogans, campaign rallies and election meetings. The EC had referred to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986, and the 2014 order of the Bombay High Court, which had stressed that political parties cannot allow participation of minor children in any election related activities.

In November 2022, a complaint had been filed against Modi for using minor children for BJP’s election campaign. In the run up to the Gujarat elections, Modi had shared a video in which a girl was seen speaking about BJP's governance in Gujarati. No action was taken.

In February 2022, AICC filed a complaint against interview of the PM with the news agency ANI being in violation the model code of conduct for Uttar Pradesh elections. The PM had been interviewed by ANI’s Smita Prakash a day before the first phase of assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh where he extolled the virtues of UP CM Yogi Adityanath, his government and policies.

The model code of conduct states that “no election matter intended/likely to influence or affect the result of election, related to the constituencies going to polls, should be telecast during the prohibited period of 48 hours referred to in Section 126, which may be seen in the constituencies going to polls”.

In 2017, the EC had asked TV channels to stop airing interviews with Rahul Gandhi on the eve of the second phase of Gujarat state elections. The Commission had then stated that it had violated the law and poll officers were asked to take action. However, it withdrew that order four days later.

The party has also filed five complaints against the home minister Amit Shah between April and November 2023 for violation of the MCC, but no action was taken. They were for equating the 'Rahu-Ketu' syndrome with the leaders of the Congress party, foreign birth, inflammatory speech, spreading enmity and hatred and making false statements.

National Herald reached out to the Election Commission, and they said they had no comments to make on the matter.

2019 Lok Sabha elections

In 2019, the grand old party filed 15 complaints against the model code violations by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the EC acted on only 5 complaints and in one complaint, action was taken against a poll officer erroneously.

In March and April 2019, Congress had complained against PM Modi’s reference to Defence personnel, Prime Minister’s invocation of religion and the Armed Forces in Maharashtra’s Wardha and Latur, Gujarat and Rajasthan; hate speech in Nanded; road-show by PM in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar and the PM’s speech on Balakot.

Congress had filed complaints against Modi where he had referred to the majority being a minority in Wayanad, which was where Rahul Gandhi was contesting from, and for his speech in Varanasi where he said 42 terrorists were killed to avenge the death of 40 troopers in Pulwama. PM Modi had also stated that Rajiv Gandhi’s life had ended as “Bhrashtachari No 1” and no action was taken on it despite complaints.

The EC took action in five complaints, which included directions to delay release of the PM Modi’s biopic and PM Modi web-series on Eros Now, excessive promotion through Doordarshan, complaint against NAMO TV, and PM Modi’s image on railway tickets. In another instance, a poll observer was wrongfully suspended even though Congress had complained about a suspicious box in PM’s helicopter in Odisha’s Sambalpur.

During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa had disagreed with the Election Commission’s decision to give clean chits to four speeches of PM Modi and had refused to attend the meetings until his dissent notes would be included in the final order. The Election Commission, which included Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, election commissioner Sushil Chandra and Lavasa, did not pass any orders on violations of the model code.

In August 2020, Lavasa submitted his resignation to the President, though he was slated to become CEC after Arora’s retirement in 2021. He joined the Manila-headquartered Asian Development Bank as the vice president.

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