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The Election Commission on Wednesday took note of the Opposition’s claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement about an anti-satellite missile ran afoul of the Model Code of Conduct. The poll body said it has appointed a panel to examine the matter.
Earlier in the day, Modi said India has successfully tested the missile, which shot down a live satellite on low earth orbit.
For more updates on Mission Shakti click here.
10.42 pm: Here are the day’s top developments.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a rare televised address to the nation on Wednesday afternoon to announce that India had shot down a live satellite in space as part of an operation called Mission Shakti. Modi said India had become the fourth country to show anti-satellite missile capability.
- Soon after the speech, Opposition parties praised Indian scientists but criticised the government for the manner of the announcement as it comes just two weeks before the Lok Sabha elections begin. In the evening, the Election Commission announced that it has set up a panel to examine the allegation that Modi violated the Model Code of Conduct.
- Actor Urmila Matondkar joined the Congress in the presence of the party President Rahul Gandhi. She said that freedom of expression is very important in a democracy, especially to an artist like her, and that there are many questions about how this freedom can be protected.
- The Trinamool Congress released its election manifesto. The party promised an investigation into the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes if the Opposition alliance comes to power. The party also said the alliance will review the Goods and Services Tax scheme, and revive the Planning Commission of India, which the Modi-led government had dissolved.
10.39 pm: BJP chief Amit Shah will take part in a 4-km roadshow before filing his nomination papers in Gandhinagar on March 30, PTI reports.
10.18 pm: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) writes to the Election Commission to oppose the appointment of former BSF Director General KK Sharma as the special police observer for the elections in West Bengal and Jharkhand, reports PTI. The party claims Sharma was present at an RSS function a year ago.
10.15 pm: Prakash Ambedkar will contest the elections from both Akola and Solapur as the candidate of the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, reports PTI.
9.31 pm: The Rajasthan Chief Electoral Office says it is mandatory for candidates and political parties to get their advertisements for electronic and social media certified in advance from the state poll panel, PTI reports.
9.23 pm: Mamata Banerjee labels Rahul Gandhi a kid for criticising her government in West Bengal during a rally last week in Malda, PTI reports. “He has said whatever he felt like,” she says. “I won’t like to make any comment on it. He is just a kid. What will I say about it?”
9.10 pm: Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India claims Modi’s announcement was an attempt at warmongering, to create “fear psychosis” among voters. “He has politicised the achievements of the scientists, taken credit for it and used public broadcasting to do so,” party leader D Raja says, according to PTI. “Also, he is trying to create a fear psychosis in the minds of the people ahead of the elections and is warmongering. This shows that they are desperate and panicky.”
9 pm: Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy accuses Modi of seeking votes “using the works done by someone else”. He adds: “Is this a major achievement of the Modi government? There is a team of scientists in the country specifically for that purpose.They do their job in a routine manner, irrespective of whichever government is in power.”
8.59 pm: The Election Commission has ordered a committee of officers to examine Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement in the light of the Model Code of Conduct, the poll body’s spokesperson tweets.
8.02 pm: Priyanka Gandhi tells reporters she has not yet decided whether she will contest the Lok Sabha elections, ANI reports. She adds: “If my party asks me to contest, I will definitely contest. My wish is to work for the party.” She also criticises Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath’s comment that she and Rahul Gandhi visit temples only during elections. “How does he know where I go and when?” she asks. “How does he know I don’t go during non-election time?”
7.58 pm: BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav appeals to the Opposition not to “play politics” on the anti-satellite missile launch, PTI reports. “Let us not play any politics. The whole country takes pride in the achievement of our scientists,” he tells reporters in Jammu.
Madhav wonders why the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government did not test the technology if the party’s claims that it was developed in 2012 were true.
7.52 pm: Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik lashes out at Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav for calling him a “campaigner for the BJP”, PTI reports. Naik, in a letter to Yadav, says he “disrespected those occupying constitutional posts”. “I think that such a talk at election time is not appropriate and is not expected of you,” he adds.
On Tuesday, Yadav had tweeted: “BJP’s election issues: Opposition and chowkidar. BJP’s campaigners: Governor, government agencies and media.”
7.45 pm: Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi asks party workers in Amethi to reach out to people in villages, and expose the BJP’s “jumlebazi” (fake promises), PTI reports. Addressing workers at the AH Inter College in Musafirkhana, Gandhi says they must “expose the reality before the people” of the government’s failures.
7.40 pm: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has written to the Election Commission claiming that Modi’s address was a violation of the Model Code of Conduct, ANI reports. “This announcement comes in the midst of the ongoing election campaign where the PM himself is a candidate,” the party writes. “This is clearly a violation of the Model Code of Conduct.”
6.20 pm: Biju Janata Dal releases another list of candidates, reports ANI. Pinaki Mishra will contest against the BJP’s Sambit Patra from Puri.
6 pm: BJP President Amit Shah attacks Rahul Gandhi for his earlier tweet.
“Thus speaks the inheritor of the dynasty that thinks - All the nation’s a stage! For them: Sacrifices of soldiers - drama Success of scientists - drama Masquerading as leaders, all that ‘The Dynasty’ has done is to plunder, weaken and ruin the nation.”
4.55 pm: Mamata Banerjee says the Trinamool Congress will complain to the Election Commission about Modi’s announcement that India has launched an anti-satellite missile, ANI reports. “It’s a political announcement, scientists should have announced it, it’s their credit,” she says at a press conference. “Only one satellite was destroyed, that wasn’t necessary, it was lying there since long, it’s the prerogative of scientists, when to do it.”
4.40 pm: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee takes a jibe at Modi and asked if he worked at the Defence Research and Development Organisation. “What was the need for Modi at the time of election to violate the Model Code of Conduct to take the credit? Is he going to space?,” ANI quoted her as saying.
4.47 pm: The Trinamool Congress, in its election manifesto released by Mamata Banerjee, promises an investigation into demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, if the Opposition alliance comes to power, PTI reports. The party also says the alliance will review the Goods and Services Tax scheme, and revive the Planning Commission of India, which the Modi-led government had dissolved.
4.32 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address a rally at Uttarakhand’s Udham Singh Nagar district on Thursday, reports News18.
4.25 pm: Defence Minister and BJP leader Nirmala Sitharaman says the Congress has adopted a conspiracy-driven election campaign. She was referring to a sting video that the Congress party released on Tuesday. In the video, an alleged BJP leader is seen charging 40% commission for exchanging demonetised currency long after the deadline to do so got over.
She says the BJP is taking legal advice. “We’re taking every possible advice so that institutions and individuals who are part of this conspiracy to defame BJP, we will take them to the court,” Sitharaman says.
4.22 pm: The Election Commission issues a show cause notice to a member of the BJP’s National Election Committee for sharing an audio-visual advertisement titled “Main Bhi Chowkidar Hun” on social media without complying with the directions of the poll body. An unidentified EC official says Neeraj has been asked to submit a reply within three days, reports News18.
4.10 pm: The Shiv Sena releases a list of 20 star campaigners for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. The list includes names like party president Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya Thackeray.
3.12 pm: BJP President Amit Shah confirms that the party will field Union Minister Giriraj Singh from Bihar’s Begusarai constituency. He will be contesting against CPI’s Kanhaiya Kumar.
3.10 pm: Jaitley says a few Opposition members do not have the elementary knowledge of national security. “The lower they go, the stronger we emerge,” he says. “India’s nuclear or space is a continuous programme, which can run for 365 days – election or no election.”
3.07 pm: Jaitley says scientists had capability to build anti-satellite missile a decade ago, but never got the government’s permission earlier.
3.06 pm: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley says the process for Mission Shakti started in 2014. “It’s a huge achievement, not only we have become space power but we are now in big four,” says Jaitley. “We should not forget that tomorrow’s wars will not be the same as yesterday’s wars.”
2.37 pm: Urmila Matondkar says it’s an important day for her. “There is now doubt about the state of freedom in our country,” she says. “To voice those concerns I have decided to enter the political fray. I am here because I believe in the ideology of the Congress. The unemployment rate has increased drastically. Where is the youth going to go if the choices are now limited?”
2.17 pm: BSP chief Mayawati accuses Narendra Modi of playing politics over anti-satellite missile capability. She says the Election Commission must take note, reports PTI.
2.16 pm: Urmila Matondkar joins Congress. She is likely to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. “I am here to stay,” she says after joining the Congress.
2.15 pm: Unidentified officials of the Election Commission tell PTI that Modi did not violate the poll code because matters related to national security and disaster management are outside the ambit of the Model Code of Conduct.
2.10 pm: Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav says the prime minister “got himself an hour of free TV and divert nation’s attention away from issues on ground – unemployment, rural crisis and women’s security by pointing at the sky”. Congratulating DRDO and ISRO, Yadav says, “This success belongs to you. Thank you for making India safer.”
2 pm: Mamata Banerjee says the Trinamool Congress will lodge a complaint with the Election Commission. “There is no great urgency in conducting and announcing the mission now by a government past its expiry date,” she says. “It seems a desperate oxygen to save the imminent sinking of the BJP boat.”
1.58 pm: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee says Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address on Mission Shakti was a “gross violation” of the Model Code of Conduct. “Today’s announcement is yet another limitless drama and publicity mongering by Modi desperately trying to reap political benefits at the time of election,” she says on Twitter.
1.49 pm: BJP MP Anshul Verma, who was denied a ticket, joins Samajwadi Party in the presence of party chief Akhilesh Yadav, reports News18.
1.43 pm: The BJP releases names of candidates for three parliamentary seats in Gujarat, reports NDTV. It drops Union Minister of State for Coal and Mines Haribhai Chaudhary, and two other sitting MPs. The BJP has now announced 19 candidates in Gujarat.
1.36 pm: The Election Commission issues a show cause notice to a member of the BJP election committee for sharing a video of the “Main Bhi Chowkidar” campaign on social media without permission, reports PTI.
1.34 pm: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) five candidates for Lok Sabha elections in Bihar, Rajasthan and West Bengal, reports ANI.
1.31 pm: Union minister Nitin Gadkari congratulates scientists over the success of Mission Shakti. “India is moving fast towards becoming a world leader and under PM Modi’s leadership, it is on its way to not only become a ‘super economic power’, but also a ‘super science power’,” he says.
The minister used the BJP’s campaign slogan “namumkin ab mumkin hai” or “the impossible is possible now” while tweeting about India’s space achievement.
12.50 pm: Modi says it is not directed against any country. “Mission Shakti is an important step towards securing India’s safety, economic growth and technological advancement,” he says.
12.42 pm: Modi says the Anti-Satellite Missile will give new strength to India’s space programme. “I assure international community that our capability won’t be used against anyone but is purely India’s defence initiative for its security,” he says, according to ANI. “We’re against arms raised in space.”
12.36 pm: Modi says the use of anti-satellite weapon does not violate any international law or deal. He says a “strong India” is needed for the peace and security of this region.
Modi’s announcement is being seen as an anti-climax as many were expecting it to be an election announcement. His address comes just two weeks before the first phase of polls set to begin on April 11.
12.34 pm: The prime minister says India now has enough satellites contributing to agriculture, disaster management, communication, weather and navigation, reports ANI.
12.32 pm: “The ‘Mission Shakti’ operation was a difficult target to achieve which was completed successfully within three minutes of launch,” he says.
12.27 pm: Modi says India has successfully tested the Anti-Satellite Missile. The missile shot down a live satellite on low earth orbit, reports ANI. “This is moment of pride for India... Indian has now entered super league in space.”
12.25 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi says India has established space power. “India has registered herself as a space power today; till now only US, Russia and China have achieved this; now India is the fourth country to achieve this feat.”
12.22 pm: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu says the Election Commission transferred three police officials without a reason, reports ANI. “We will fight against CEC’s decision at national level,” he says. “CEC taking one-sided decisions is not good for the democracy.”
12.17 pm: Senior Congress leader and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Sushilkumar Shinde claims BJP approached him and his daughter, Praniti Shinde, to join the party ahead of the elections, reports Hindustan Times. BJP called the claim baseless.
12.11 pm: Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav criticises BJP for not fielding senior candidates like LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, saying its “hypocritical morality” has been exposed, reports The Indian Express.
“What culture, way and character they are presenting by showing doors to the ‘margdarshak mandal’?” he says on Twitter. “BJP’s hypocritical morality has been exposed.”
11.48 am: Congress leader P Chidambaram says the size of India’s economy today is Rs 200 lakh crore and in nominal terms it will increase by about 12% per year, reports ANI. “In about six years it will double,” he says. “So in five years between 2019-2024, size of India’s GDP would have grown from about Rs 200 lakh crore to Rs 400 lakh crore.”
11.37 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will address the nation between 11.45 am and 12 noon “with an important message”.
11.34 am: Chidambaram says the scheme will ensure a standard transfer of Rs 6,000 per month which is Rs 72,000 per year, reports News18. He says the cash will be transferred to the accounts of women in the household. “With this the tax revenues will rise and GDP will rise,” he says. “Some taxes might be scrapped and some taxes might be imposed.”
He says five crore families will be covered in phases and an expert committee will be set up to implement the scheme. “We will consult the committee before we move to next stage,” he says, according to PTI.
11.24 am: “We have consulted enough experts in the subject [minimum income guarantee scheme] and all of them have broadly agreed that India has the capacity to implement a scheme of this kind,” says Chidambaram, according to NDTV.
11.17 am: Chidambaram says the minimum income guarantee scheme will be rolled out in phases, reports Hindustan Times. “We believe the scheme of this kind couldn’t have been implemented 20 years ago, certainly not 40 years ago.”
11.14 am: Congress leader P Chidambaram says the minimum income guarantee scheme announced by party chief Rahul Gandhi will benefit around 25 crore people, reports ANI. “We will identify the poorest 20% of India’s families, that is about five crore families,” he says.
11.11 am: Actress Urmila Matondkar set to join the Congress in the presence of party chief Rahul Gandhi, reports The Indian Express.
11.10 am: Bhojpuri singer and actor Dinesh Lal Yadav “Nirhua” joins BJP in Lucknow, reports ANI.
10.25 am: BJP candidate in West Bengal’s Basirhat parliamentary seat, Sayantan Basu, says people who attempt to capture booths on election day should be shot to death.
10.05 am: Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal says Congress’ failure was the reason why his party came into existence, reports Hindustan Times. “The country was under your [Congress] rule for around 70 years,” Kejriwal said on Tuesday. “If you had actually done good work, Aam Aadmi Party would not have come into existence.”
11.01 am: Bihar BJP leader Giriraj Singh claims state leadership did not inform before allotting the Begusarai seat to him instead of re-nominating him from Nawada, reports Hindustan Times. “Bihar BJP leaders kept me in dark,” says Singh. “They gave me pain; now they have to give me medicine. I am waiting for them to explain [to] me the rationale behind the decision.”
10.52 am: Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi arrives in Lucknow. She will begin campaigning in Amethi and Rae Bareli on Wednesday and Thursday and visit Ayodhya on Friday, reports ANI. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi are contesting from Amethi and Rae Bareli.
10.49 am: Madhav demands a first information report against National Conference leader Akbar Lone for “anti-India statements to provoke people”, reports ANI. “I would like to ask National Conference leadership if they agree with the statement of Akbar Lone over Pakistan?”
Lone had said that he will abuse those who hurl abuses at Pakistan.
10.45 am: Madhav says the two regional parties in Jammu and Kashmir don’t want to provide democratic rights to the people of the state. “But when it comes to their own political future, Farooq [Abdullah] saab [and] Mehbooba [Mufti] ji want to contest,” ANI quotes him as saying in Srinagar. “They are selfish.”
Madhav says the BJP has not changed its stand on Article 35 A, which grants special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, and Article 370, which grants special, autonomous status to the state.
10.41 am: BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav says the two regional parties in Jammu and Kashmir – National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party – announced candidates for the Lok Sabha elections, even as they had asked people to boycott the municipal elections, reports ANI. The parties had said that Article 35-A and Article 370 were under threat due to Narendra Modi’s government.
10.32 am: Opposition leaders allege money laundering during demonetisation and release video purportedly showing a BJP worker from Gujarat charging 40% commission to exchange invalid notes after the deadline to do so was over.
The Opposition, however, did not authenticate the video and claimed it was filmed by journalists from a news portal called Tricolour News Network World.
10.28 am: The Election Commission issues notice to four producers of the biopic PM Narendra Modi, reports ANI. The Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had complained to poll body on the film’s release ahead of elections, saying it was being done with political intent.
The poll body had sent notices to two newspapers on March 20 for publishing posters of the biopic.
10.24 am: Adityanath says the “new generation” of Congress dropped in for the Kumbh mela after they say the large turnout. “They [Congress] used to say Ganga is not clean, but when they saw people consuming its water, they did the same,” he says.
10.21 am: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath says people of Gujarat have exposed Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, reports ANI. “He went to Somnath temple [and] sat there as if offering namaz,” he says in Ahmedabad. “Temple priest had to scold him that this is a temple, sit cross-legged.”
10.12 am: BJP’s National General Secretary Ram Madhav says the party has asked the Election Commission to hold Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir as early as possible, reports ANI.
10.09 am: The Election Commission writes to the Ministry of Railways and Civil Aviation seeking a response on why Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photos were not removed from train tickets and Air India boarding passes even after Model Code of Conduct came into effect, reports ANI. The two ministries have been asked to submit a reply in three days.
9.15 am: The Election Commission of India issues a notice to NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar seeking an explanation for his comments against the Congress’ minimum income guarantee scheme, The Indian Express reports. Unidentified officials tell PTI that Kumar’s comments may have violated the Model Code of Conduct as he is part of the “bureaucratic executive” and this was not a case “of one politician attacking the other or one party attacking the other”. He has been asked to respond within two days.
9 am: BJP leader and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath criticises the Congress’ minimum income scheme, says the Modi government is doing what former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi failed to do – eradicate poverty, according to The Times of India. “If Rahul Gandhi’s grandmother, who gave the slogan ‘Garibi Hatao’ in 1971, had implemented schemes to give homes to poor, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would not have been needed to give 2.5 crore homes to the poor,” he says in Ahmedabad.
8.55 am: Three IPS officers in Andhra Pradesh transferred by the Election Commission after YSR Congress Party alleged that they were working for the state’s ruling Telugu Desam Party, ANI reports. The officials include Intelligence Director General AB Venkateswara Rao, Kadapa Superintendent of Police Rahul Dev Sharma and Srikakulam SP Venkata Ratnam.
8.50 am: Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav says he hopes the Congress’ minimum income plan is not like the BJP’s promise to deposit “Rs 15 lakh in bank accounts” of the poor, reports News18.
8.45 am: The Bharatiya Janata Party has accused the Congress of misleading the public with its election promise of a minimum income scheme. The ruling party pointed out contradictions in the Congress’ statements and described it as a “classic Congress style volte-face within 24 hours”.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi had announced the scheme – “Nyoontama Aay Yojana, or NYAY” – on Monday, in which he promised Rs 72,000 a year to the poorest 20% families if his party wins the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The name means “minimum income scheme” in Hindi, while the acronym means “justice”. He described it as his party’s “surgical strike on poverty” on Tuesday.
8.40 am: Odisha Congress claims Sambit Patra violated code of conduct by carrying idol of a deity at a rally. The district collector of Puri has issued a show-cause notice to Patra, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Puri candidate for the Lok Sabha elections, OdishaTV reports.
8.35 am: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee says the Bharatiya Janata Party’s decision to leave out LK Advani out of its candidates list is an insult to the senior party leader, PTI reports. Last week, BJP President Amit Shah was announced the candidate from Advani’s seat, Gandhinagar in Gujarat. On Tuesday, another party veteran Murli Manohar Joshi was also dropped after the party announced that Uttar Pradesh minister Satyadev Pachauri will be fielded from Joshi’s Kanpur constituency. Joshi had won the seat in 2014 by a huge margin.
8.30 am: Here are the top updates from Tuesday.
- The Bharatiya Janata Party released its tenth list of candidates for the Lok Sabha elections. Union minister Maneka Gandhi and her son Varun Gandhi will contest from each other’s constituencies in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Maneka Gandhi currently represents the Pilibhit constituency and Varun Gandhi is an MP from Sultanpur, but they have swapped their seats.
- Veteran Bharatiya Janata Party leader Murli Manohar Joshi will not contest the Lok Sabha elections from his Kanpur constituency this time as the party named sitting MLA and state minister Satyadev Pachauri from the seat.
- Actor-turned-politician Jaya Prada joined the BJP on Tuesday, and was named the party’s candidate from Rampur constituency hours later. She was elected in 2004 and 2009 from Rampur on a Samajwadi Party ticket. She will now be contesting against Samajwadi Party’s Azam Khanand the Congress’ Sanjay Kapoor.
- Bharatiya Janata Party leader Shatrughan Sinha is likely to join the Congress on March 28. Bihar Congress election campaign committee chairperson Akhilesh Prasad Singh said Sinha will get a Lok Sabha election ticket from the Patna Sahib constituency..
- The Bharatiya Janata Party has named lawyer and Yuva Morcha activist Tejasvi Surya its candidate for the prestigious Bangalore South seat in Karnataka. The seat was previously held by late Union minister Ananth Kumar.
- Congress President Rahul Gandhi addressed his party’s Jan Sankalp Rally in Rajasthan, and claimed Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been trying to create two Indias for the last five years. He said his party’s promised minimum income scheme will be a “surgical strike” on poverty.