Forty-seven retired civil servants on Tuesday urged the chief election commissioner to stall the release of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s biopic till May 23, once the results of the Lok Sabha elections are declared. In a letter, they pointed out that the release would be a violation of the Model Code of Conduct.
PM Narendra Modi will be released on April 5, less than a week before the elections begin on April 11. The last phase of the elections will be held on May 19 and the results will be declared on May 23.
“You [the chief election commissioner] will appreciate that such a film would create enormous electoral mileage for the Prime Minister and the party in power,” read their letter. “It is, therefore, necessary to examine whether the release of this biopic after the announcement of elections and the coming into force of the MCC [Model Code of Conduct] is consonant with the principles of a free and fair election. The same principle would apply to any similar biopic on any other candidate in the forthcoming elections, since news reports mention a biopic on the president of the Indian National Congress, Shri Rahul Gandhi [though there is no mention of the date of release].”
The civil servants pointed out that even appointments to the boards of public sector undertakings are not permitted when the code of conduct is in force. “...Open advocacy of the role of the Prime Minister [or of any other candidate] in biopics or documentaries focused on them amount, in our view, to propaganda in favour of individuals belonging to particular political parties at a time when the MCC is in force,” read the letter. They said the film’s release at this time is to “garner publicity for political personages and the political parties they represent”.
The film features Vivek Oberoi as Narendra Modi through various stages of his life – including his early years with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and his long stint as chief minister of Gujarat – leading up to his party’s victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
On Monday, a Congress delegation met Election Commission officials to ask that the movie’s release be stalled. The Opposition party said the content, timing and motive of PM Narendra Modi is political.
Last week, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam had also approached the Election Commission seeking a ban on the biopic until the elections are completed. The Nationalist Congress Party’s cultural wing and the Goa unit of National Students’ Union of India had also sought curbs.
On March 20, a district election officer of the East Delhi Parliamentary constituency served a show cause notice to leading Hindi newspaper Dainik Bhaskar, music company T-Series and film production company Legend Global Studio for allegedly violating the Model Code of Conduct with a front page advertisement of the biopic. They have to respond by March 30.