ECI silent on “allegations” of three code violations by Prime Minister Modi

“Last time we had a moral sensor. This time we will be stricter,” said ECE Rajiv Kumar on Saturday. At least 3 seemingly clear violations of the model code by the PM have surfaced already

3 ‘allegations' include the use of school children & IAF helicopter for campaigning and sending campaign messages after the code of conduct was in effect.  (Photo: National Herald archives)
3 ‘allegations' include the use of school children & IAF helicopter for campaigning and sending campaign messages after the code of conduct was in effect. (Photo: National Herald archives)

A.J. Prabal

Asked by the National Herald correspondent why the Election Commission had taken no notice of complaints of violation of the model code of conduct by the PM and the union home minister in 2019, the CEC had evaded giving a direct reply while describing the complaints as ‘allegations’.

Well, no formal complaint has apparently been made on poll violations by the PM to the Commission, but social media is abuzz with at least three ‘allegations’ of such violation by the PM.

Referring to Election Commission’s advisory strictly prohibiting use of children for election campaigning, Trinamool Congress MP Saket Gokhale shared a photograph of school children bused to the PM’s rally at Coimbatore yesterday. Mr Gokhale alleged that children from at least 50 schools were ferried for the rally and wondered why no action has been taken and no warning issued by the EC.

The MP, among others, also flagged the PM’s use of an IAF helicopter for campaigning, claiming that while the PM is allowed the use of bullet proof cars, security and jammers, he is not allowed to campaign in IAF planes and helicopters. The MP has filed a complaint against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for violating the Model Code of Conduct for using an Indian Air Force helicopter to attend an election rally in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday.

Pointing out that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was disqualified in 1975 specifically for using state machinery in her poll campaign, the MP inquired if BJP paid for renting the IAF chopper. The EC should also explain why the helicopter ride was essential, he said.

The third allegation of violation of the model code by the PM relates to WhatsApp messages received by people in India and abroad with a letter from PM Modi, allegedly after the Model Code of Conduct had kicked in.

The message had been sent by a business account with the ID “ Viksit Bharat Sampark” and was allegedly sent to people in Pakistan, UAE and gulf countries as well. The business account is credited to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. The catch is that business accounts are allowed to be used by government departments and agencies but not by political parties.

The message, enumerating the programmes of the government launched in the last 10 years and seeking feedback, is clearly aimed at voters and amounts to election campaigning.

The other issue is how this business account got hold of phone numbers and names of people here in India and abroad. Which data base was breached and is it ethical for the government and the ruling party to use them?

Apar Gupta, lawyer and activist, has pointed out that the Election Commission in 2019 had formulated a ‘digital code of conduct’ after consultations with service providers. Political parties and civil society were not consulted. This time, there is no word on whether such consultations have been held and if the digital code of conduct has been reviewed.

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    Published: 19 Mar 2024, 12:48 PM