The Election Commission will examine if Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s televised address on the launch of anti-satellite missile violates the model code of conduct, the poll body said in a statement on Wednesday evening.
“The matter related to the address of Prime Minister to the Nation on electronic media today afternoon has been brought to the notice of the ECI. The Commission has directed a committee of officers to examine the matter immediately in the light of Model Code of Conduct,” the Election Commission statement said after PM Modi’s announcement triggered howls of protest from the opposition parties.
The model code is designed to ensure that the party in power does not get an unfair advantage in campaigning and influencing voters. The code is routinely invoked to prevent the political executive from promising financial grants, large projects or making ad-hoc government appointments.
Election Commission sources had initially indicated that the government did not need to take permission to make security-related announcements. But the Commission appeared to take a closer look at the speech after opposition parties closed ranks. CPM’s Sitaram Yechury was among the first to lodge a formal complaint against PM Modi’s address, underlining that the announcement comes in the midst of the ongoing election campaign where the PM is a candidate.
“This is clearly a violation of the model code of conduct,” Yechury said. He asked the Election Commission to spell out how it could have “permitted the achievements of Indian scientists to be politically-coloured during the course of the general elections”.
By then, Yechury’s rival back in Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had already taken a sharp swipe at PM Modi, describing his address to the nation as a “limitless drama” and announcing that she will file a formal complaint with the Election Commission.
“There is no great urgency in conducting and announcing the mission now by a government past its expiry date. It seems a desperate oxygen to save the imminent sinking of the BJP boat. We are lodging a complaint with the Election Commission,” she tweeted.
The Bengal CM, however, congratulated the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) scientists, who she said, “really deserve it (credit)”.
The Bahujan Samaj Party’s Mayawati also urged the Election Commission to take note of the matter.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had tweeted about his address to the nation to deliver an “important message” about 15 minutes after the anti-satellite missile was launched from Odisha’s Balasore at 11.16 am.
During his 10-minute address, he spoke about the successful test that had propelled India in the elite space club that comprised the US, Russia and China. “In the journey of every nation there are moments that bring utmost pride and have a historic impact on generations to come. One such moment is today,” said the PM.
Mission Shakti, which was led by the DRDO, was aimed at strengthening India’s overall security, he said in his address that comes a fortnight before the start of the general election.
First Published: Mar 27, 2019 21:51 HT