Model Code of Conduct remains Chimera for BJP

Decoding the Model Code of Conduct
Decoding the Model Code of Conduct

The Model Code of Conduct is a set of guidelines issued to regulate the conduct of political parties and candidates during elections mainly with respect to speeches, general conduct and actions related to the election process. These set of norms have been finalised after reaching a consensus among political parties who have consented to abide by the principles enshrined in the said code in its letter and spirit.

Normally, the Model Code of Conduct comes immediately into force after the announcement of the election schedule by the Election Commission to ensure free and fair elections. The main purpose of this code of conduct is to ensure that ruling parties, at the Centre and in the States, are not able to misuse their position in order to gain an unfair advantage. Unfortunately, this is not the case in the current election as almost every leader worth his salt from BJP including the Prime Minister Modi has been violating the Moral Code of Conduct.

Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh while addressing BJP workers at his Aligarh residence on March 23, said, “We are all BJP workers and we want our party to win. We want Modiji to become the Prime minister as it’s necessary that he becomes the PM again”. He didn’t think twice before making this statement. Has he forgotten that he is holding a constitutional post and is no more a BJP leader? The opposition parties promptly brought the matter to EC’s attention which forwarded the complaint to the President, who in a routine manner referred it to the Home Minister. Till this date no action has been taken against the ex-Chief Minister of UP for violating the Model Code of Conduct.

Most of the electronic media including the TV channels have become virtual mouthpieces of the ruling party and are busy doing proxy attacks on the opposition parties. There is this NaMo TV which since its launch, is embroiled in controversy over its legality and ownership. The channel is allegedly eulogising and advertising Narendra Modi in a brazen violation of the Model Code of Conduct. The opposition parties, including the CPI (M) and Congress, have written to the Election Commission asking for action against the BJP over the channel.

Last week, EC had issued a notice seeking a report from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry on NaMo TV and the ministry has reportedly said that since it’s not being a TV channel and only an advertisement platform, it doesn’t require a government license.

Meanwhile, a poll was carried out by the Business Standard to know what people thought about NaMo TV. The poll was conducted on its website and also on the social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter where users were asked if they believe that the channel violates Model code of conduct or not. Now, out of over 11,000 people who voted in the first 24 hours, 94% of them opined that NaMo TV was indeed a violation of the Model code of conduct.

For last over two months, a film “PM Narendra Modi” which is a biopic on the Prime Minister has been in news for all wrong reasons. It’s not as if a film on the life of a Prime minister can’t be made. What is inappropriate is its sheer timing of release. A number of leaders from across the political spectrum have taken umbrage to the release of the biopic ahead of the Lok Sabha Polls, calling it a propaganda film. Although, the Election Commission of India has stopped the release of the film, it has been definitely a case of too late too little. The action was taken as an afterthought only when the pressure mounted too much on the EC.

The commission in its order observed that if any biopic material in the form of a biography or hagiography subserving the purposes of any political entity or any individual entity connected to it has potential to disturb the level playing field during the elections, it should not be displayed in electronic media including cinematograph during the operation of model code of conduct.

There was another instance of violation of Model code of conduct when the Union Minister, Ms Maneka Gandhi while addressing an election rally on Thursday in Uttar Pradesh’s Sultanpur, told Muslims to vote for her as they cannot do without her once the Lok Sabha elections are over. She almost threatened minority community by saying “We are not Mahatma Gandhi’s children, so don’t expect that we will keep giving and not get anything in return”.

Right since the election dates were announced by the Election commission, the Prime minister has been deliberately invoking defence personnel during his election speeches. On 9th April, while speaking at a rally in Latur, Maharashtra, Prime Minister Modi urged first-time voters to dedicate their votes to the pilots who conducted the Balakot airstrikes and also to the CRPF jawans who lost their lives in Pulwama terror attack.

This shameful appeal did not go down well with many on Twitter, who saw this as a shameful violation of Model Code of Conduct and a desperate attempt to win goodwill ahead of the polls. Abhishek Singhvi of Congress went as far as saying that it is for the first time in 70 years, that a ruling party has dragged the armed forces into cheap politics.

He appealed to the Commission to not just censure or pull up those violating the Model code of conduct but take severe action against those guilty of violating it. The Congress also complained to the poll panel on alleged hate speeches by Prime Minister Modi, party president Amit Shah and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath during their rallies in Nanded, Nagpur and Meerut on April 9. Earlier, Yogi Adityanath in a most audacious manner during his election campaign described armed forces as ‘Modiji ki Sena’. Though, Election Commission has cautioned the UP chief minister, the action
lacks any serious intent and it’s doubtful whether Yogi Adityanath will be reined in by this cosmetic action.

The violation of Model code of conduct is just not limited to the verbal rhetoric but also in the fact that the ruling party is using CBI, ED, and IT Dept to hound and persecute the opposition leaders. They have been let loose to harass and frighten the opposition leaders through series of raids and seizures like never seen before in the history of free India.

BJP leaders exhorting people to vote in the name of army and begging for votes over the dead soldiers is like vulture feasting over dead bodies. The Election Commission cannot shy away from its responsibilities for not taking action against the alleged violation of MCC.

Academic Ashok Swain minced no words and said India’s Election Commission should either pack its bags and go home or move its office to the BJP headquarter. Apparently, the ruling BJP has been given a rather long rope by the Election Commission of India and sometimes it appears as if, MCC or the Model code of conduct has truly morphed into Modi Code of Conduct.

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