Welcome to The Election Fix. Every Sunday, Monday and Thursday, we will bring you all the news, analysis and opinion worth paying attention to. Today, we look at what the Bharatiya Janata Party and its supporters think of the model code, bring you a ground report from Western UP and introduce you to the ‘Space Chowkidar.’
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The Big Story: Poll model
The Model Code of Conduct has not had the greatest of weeks. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation about a successful anti-satellite test, prompting many questions about whether a speech that did not seem entirely necessary was appropriate with elections just around the corner.
But that was only the most high-profile of recent incidents where questions have been raised about which side of the model code line Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and its supporters are standing on. From an upcoming movie about Modi’s life to government appointees making openly partisan statements to the Odisha election commission applying different standards to Central and state welfare schemes, the concerns have been numerous and quite varied.
A quick rundown:
- Modi’s ‘Mission Shakti’ speech: The prime minister gave an address to the nation, that was carried on Doordarshan, All India Radio and across news organisations, about India successfully carrying out an anti-satellite test. The achievement may have been significant, but was it necessary for the prime minister to be the one delivering the news to the people? More details and questions about the ‘Mission Shakti’ speech are here.
- Political biopics: An unprecedented biopic about a serving prime minister being released just days before the elections begin has many asking, how can this not fall afoul of the model code? The same question can be applied to a web show about Modi’s life, and another movie called ‘My Name is Raga.’
- Railway tickets and boarding cards: The Election Commission has asked the Railway and Civil Aviation ministries to explain why Modi’s images have not been removed from train tickets and Air India boarding cards.
- Government ‘agents’: NITI Aayog chief Rajiv Kumar criticised the Congress’ NYAY income support scheme, and Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh was seen in a video saying Modi must come back to power and that ‘we are all BJP workers.’. Both are supposed to work for the government of India, not the BJP.
- Double standards: The governments of Odisha and West Bengal are claiming that state election commissions have halted their state welfare schemes, citing the model code of conduct, even as the Election Commission of India is permitting Modi’s PM-Kisan, a similar national income support programme, to go ahead.
- Votes to win a prize: Alt News reported that Pro-BJP Facebook pages are offering “attractive prizes”, if you pledge to vote for the BJP, raising questions about whether this counts as “quasi-bribery.”
The Model Code of Conduct is a series of guidelines that were developed with the consensus of the political parties. Its chief aim is to ensure a level playing field for all parties, so even though it includes provisions on not making communal remarks and so on, the main focus tends to be on whether the party in power is abusing its position for electoral gains.
Keeping tabs on every potential violation of the Model Code, especially online, is an impossible task for the Election Commission, and so it may be understandable when some incidents slip between the cracks. But if the Commission cannot take action even in prominent cases, like the Modi movie or a Governor making remarks, what utility does the Model Code serve at all?
On Monday we asked whether Modi or Rahul Gandhi would be contesting from a southern constituency in addition to their current seats up North. The Modi question, at least as far as Bangalore South was concerned, was answered when the BJP decided to go with a young local candidate, Tejasvi Surya, instead.
Nasir writes in with an opinion on the constant questions about whether the Congress has made the right calculation in its alliances in the states:
Rather than despairing over the egos that prevent opposition unity, maybe we should treat these manifestations of egos as an expression of consolidating regional [support] (and hence elements of an alternative national identity?) See this.
Elections 2019 on Scroll.in:
- Ground report: Akash Bisht reports from Sahranpur, Uttar Pradesh, one of those seats where we’ll understand if this is a tri-cornered contest or not. Both the Gathbandhan and the Congress have prominent Muslim faces up against a polarising BJP candidate. How will anti-BJP voters pick?
- Ground report: Will the sealing of shops in Delhi affect the BJP’s support among traders? Vijayta Lalwani reports.
- Manifesto check: Aarefa Johari looks at whether the Modi government has improved cities and the lot of the “neo” middle class.
- Manifesto check: Aarefa Johari, again, evaluates what the last five years have been like compared to the promises made in the BJP’s manifesto about women empowerment.
There are also a couple of stories that do not directly pertain to the election, and yet may tell you a lot about our political process
- Scroll Investigation: Aruna Chandrasekhar reports on how the Modi government, days before elections were announced, cleared the way for an Adani power plant to become a Special Economic Zone, which will lead to billions in savings for the company.
- Supriya Sharma writes about a litmus test for the new Congress government in Chhattisgarh: Despite campaigning against the influence of a few industrialists, will the Congress hand over another coal mine to the Adani group?
Our reporters are bringing you dispatches on the elections from across the country. Your support could help us go further and dig deeper. Subscribe to Scroll+ and help pay for quality journalism.
Policy & reportage:
- A team of Economic Times reporters set out to examine whether the ‘Balakot Bump’ is real, particularly in North Indian states where one might expect it to affect people the most. The answer: Unclear, but the strikes have resonated.
- Firstpost is working with 101Reporters and has 60 journalists out in the field testing the idea of development on the ground. The whole Elections on the Go series is here, and you could start with this dispatch from a Jharkhand area affected by human trafficking.
- Ashwaq Masood also reports on Jharkhand for Mint, writing about Singhbhum, a constituency where nearly two-thirds of children are underweight. Click through also for Priyanka Parashar’s striking photographs.
- No rival can take on the BJP’s massive digital election machine find Dinesh Narayan and Venkat Ananth in ET Prime (paywall).
- Nistula Hebbar of the Hindu takes you behind the scenes of former Trinamool leader Mukul Roy’s plan to turn the BJP into a force in Bengal.
Opinion & analysis:
- The Congress doesn’t actually have to worry about Uttar Pradesh, writes Aunindyo Chakravarty on NDTV. It can leave that to the Gathbandan but needs to win in places where it directly takes on the BJP.
- Data and its handling is one of the undercurrents of this election that parties and journalists are still getting used to. Srinivas Kodali writes in the Wire about the “surveillance politics” of Andhra Pradesh.
- Defections are all too common in India, despite the anti-defection law, which has itself has unfortunate effects. Dipak De Sarkar writes in Mint that the incoming government should put its mind to this problem.
- Alok Rai, in the Indian Express, argues that while Jat or Dalit or even Muslim parties can afford to openly represent their bases, the BJP has to hide behind Hindu nationalism because it cannot openly defend Brahmanism.
- Arun Anand, CEO of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s media wing, argues in the Print that actually, this election is about defeating the radical Left, which, he claims, still can have a major electoral impact.
Did we miss any reports or op-eds that you thought were relevant? Send thoughts, suggestions and WhatsApp forwards to firstname.lastname@example.org.