The Election Commission (EC) has itself now been accused of violating the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) for refusing to act on complaints about Prime Minister Narendra Modi defying its prescribed rules of speech and behaviour in election campaign, said a report by TheWire.
From the time elections were announced and the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) came into force, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly made speeches that even at first glance have gone against the prescribed norms and, despite repeated complaints by concerned citizens and opposition parties, the Election Commission (EC) has not taken any action so far.
The EC had given clear directions to all campaigners and candidates to desist from propaganda involving the armed forces. The code has always forbidden invocation of religion, caste or other divisive factors as part of the campaign.
While the EC has acted on complaints against other leaders, Modi seems to be above the law and has defiantly raised these issues right through the campaign. Three phases of polling have also been completed during this stretch, covering more than half the constituencies in the country.
The EC’s portal on code violations does not show any complaint against the prime minister.
A large number of retired defence services personnel have objected to the use of the name of the armed forces in the election campaign, which Modi has been doing all the time. But the commission has not taken any decision on the complaints and even after many weeks it is still examining them.
A number of retired top bureaucrats had also written to the President about the “pusillanimity” of the EC in taking action against poll code violations and the erosion of its credibility as an independent, autonomous institution.
While The Times of India (TOI) reported that the EC may take up the MCC violation complaints pending against PM Modi at its meeting on April 30, there is nothing else to indicate any move in this direction.
Instructions on observance of MCC:
“No appeal shall be made on basis of caste/communal feelings of the electors.
No activity, which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes/communities /religious/linguistic groups, shall be attempted.
No aspect of the private life, not connected with the public activities, of the leaders or workers of other parties is to be criticised.
Criticism of other parties or their workers on the basis of unverified allegations or on distortions shall be avoided.
No temples/mosques/churches/gurdwaras or any place or worship is to be used for election propaganda, including speeches, posters, music etc, or electioneering, and
The candidates/campaigners/political leaders are to desist from displaying photograph of defence personnel or photograph of functions involving defence personnel in advertisement, or otherwise as part of their election propaganda/campaigning. They are also advised to desist from indulging in any political propaganda involving activities of defence forces.”
Alleged violations of Model Code of Conduct by Modi
At a rally in Wardha in Maharashtra on April 1, Modi said that the Congress had hurt the sentiments of Hindus by coining the term ‘Hindu terror’. He also said that Rahul Gandhi had run away from ‘Hindu samaj’ and chosen to contest from a constituency where the majority community was a minority.
He mentioned the IAF strike on Balakot at another meeting in Maharashtra on April 9 and told the voters to dedicate their votes to the defence personnel. This was in effect a call for votes in the name of the armed forces.
He has referred to the surgical strikes against Pakistan many times from different platforms.
All this while, the Prime Minister has been ably assisted by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who called the armed forces “Modiji ki sena”.
While Adityanath had been gagged for 72 hours and the Congress’s Navjot Sidhu was also meted out the same treatment for appealing to Muslims not to divide their votes, the Election Commission has not yet taken a decision on the speeches of Modi in spite of several complaints.
Mahendra Singh, president of the West Bengal Forum for Mental Health, in a complaint sent to the EC on April 20 said that by not acting on his repeated complaints about code violations by Modi, the poll panel violated MCC guidelines provided in chapter 23, page 227, TheWire reported.
Singh said these guidelines clearly state that “Complainants will also be informed of the action taken by SMS and by the call centre. Complainants can also see the details of the action taken on their complaints. This system should be operational within 24 hours of the announcement. All complaints should be dealt with promptly and properly.”
With the EC not providing any answers to why action has not been taken on his complaint against Modi, Singh asked: “When the guidelines are so clearly articulated by ECI in writing to all political parties and their strict compliance sought, then where is the scope for the Commission to sit on my complaint?”
He said if a report was submitted to the Commission on April 14 by the district and state officials, then “what is the justification of three ECI commissioners and their subordinate officials for not acting on it?”
“Are they themselves not responsible for the delay in taking action on the complaint?” he asked.
Singh said that on the first complaint against Modi on April 9, the EC had not responded. When he sent a reminder on April 12 to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora and the two ECs, he got an acknowledgement saying that action would be taken in two days. However, instead, the online status of the complaint was shown to be “default”.
Singh followed up with a second reminder on April 13, pointing out that he has been provided with some control room numbers by EC which were either switched off or not being answered. Singh reminded the poll panel that it was duty-bound to act on the complaint.
On April 15, Singh received a call from the EC’s director, who assured him that the grievance would be looked into and resolved. The same evening, Singh also received a message from the EC portal that his complaint has been disposed. On the portal as well, the status of the complaint had changed from ‘default’ to ‘Report Submitted to ECI on 14th April’.
However, there was still no information on the action taken.
On April 16, Singh sent his third reminder along with a mention of how the PM was “continuously taking advantage of non-action by Election Commission against its own direction of not to use the achievements of India’s armed forces for political campaigning purpose.”
Then, on April 18, he sent his fourth reminder. This time he cited a Supreme Court observation that it was ‘happy that the EC has found its power’ and hoped that his complaint would be acted upon. He referred to how the previous day, the PM again used the Balakot airstrike for political purposes while addressing a rally at Balodabazar district in Chhattisgarh.
Singh also noted that the Election Commission guidelines issued on April 5 to president/chairperson/general secretary of all recognised national and state political parties had spelt out the instructions on the observance of MCC.
On his latest complaint, Singh said that from the evening of April 15 to April 24, the online status of his complaint was showing as “Resolved”.
However, on the night of April 24, it changed to “In Progress”.
He said that since no action had been taken on the complaint for a fortnight since its filing, the CEC and district election commissioner should take stringent action against ECI officials who are responsible for the delay.