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Starting from timing release of a movie based on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s life at the time of 2019 Lok Sabha election and then his photographs appearing on Air India boarding passes and rail tickets, to his address today (Wednesday, March 27) about India’s entry into the space powers club, the Election Commission’s attention has been repeatedly drawn to the man in person or by proxie.

Hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced – in a rather long-drawn speech – India successfully testing an anti-satellite missile to enter the club of space powers, the Election Commission of India had what was described as an “internal consultation” on the matter, reported The Indian Express (IE).

The announcement had been followed by statements from Modi’s ministers and a barrage of social media posts from BJP and other Modi supporters with ‘chowkidar’ prefix on their names hailing, understandably – the development, while opposition parties questioned the timing and the manner of the announcement. They also pointed out that when India has achieved this capability years ago in 2012 (some cited reports from 2011), even then it was an officer who had made the announcement and not the PM.

Some parties have appealed to the Election Commission, but sources in the top poll body have said that “no permission of poll panel is needed for security related issues being announced.”

However, the IE report cited senior EC officials as saying comments from the government would soon be sought on the circumstances and urgency for the address.

EC officials told The Indian Express that what is already under examination by them are the precedents of such a national address by the Prime Minister shortly before the Lok Sabha polls and whether “ national security” could be invoked by the ruling NDA for the urgency of the address.

There are indications that the Election Commission was taken by surprise with the development and that Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora has given instructions for the transcript of the address to be analysed carefully by EC officials and another review is likely to be undertaken on Thursday.

Election Commission sources said that they would also be looking into the “origins” of the Prime Minister’s address to find out if the coordination and preparations for it were done within the Prime Minister’s Office or the Ministry of Defence.

EC on Modi’s pics on rail tickets, boarding passes of flights

Before this, it wasn’t PM Modi directly, but in an election that is centred around his leadership, it was the issue of his pictures on rail tickets and boarding passes of flights of some airlines. The EC was reported to have issued a show cause notice to the Railways and Civil Aviation ministries over the use of PM Modi’s pictures on rail tickets and Air India boarding passes as prima facie it violates the model code of conduct.

Media reports quoting sources in the poll panel said prima facie the railways and Air India have violated the model code of conduct, and referred to clause VII of the code which states that “issue of advertisement at the cost of public exchequer … regarding achievements with a view to furthering the prospects of the party in power shall be scrupulously avoided”.

In a complaint to the EC, the Trinamool Congress had recently claimed that the “…railway tickets issued by the Indian Railways contain achievements of the party in power at the Centre (BJP) with regard to Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and photographs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi which is being displayed at the cost of public exchequer and obviously to influence minds of the voters.”

Modi biopic

The Election Commission has also sought comments from the makers of the biopic on Narendra Modi on the Opposition’s demand to postpone its release till the Lok Sabha elections get over. The film is slated for release on April 5. The Delhi chief electoral officer had already issued a notice to the producers in this regard.

On March 20, East Delhi Returning Officer K Mahesh suo motu issued notices to the production house and music company behind the film “PM Narendra Modi” and two leading newspapers for publishing advertisements of the film. Opposition parties have alleged that the film violates the model code and would act like an advertisement for the BJP.

According to media reports, the Delhi Chief Electoral Office had said on Monday that it was awaiting a reply from the makers of a biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, scheduled to be released on April 5, after it felt that the film violated the model code of conduct.

Delhi Chief Electoral Officer Ranbir Singh said the concerned parties have been given time till March 30 to respond.

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