The Election Commission said on Thursday that it was still reviewing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech in Latur, Maharashtra, earlier this month, to decide if it violated the Model Code of Conduct, The Indian Express reported. At a rally on April 9, Modi had urged first-time voters to dedicate their votes to the defence forces in the wake of the Pulwama attack and the Balakot air strike.
“I want to ask the first-time voter, can your vote be dedicated to those soldiers who conducted air strike on Balakot in Pakistan?” Modi had asked. “Can your first vote be dedicated to those soldiers who were killed in Pulwama attack?” The prime minister had mentioned the defence forces in his election speech despite the Election Commission directing parties to keep them out of election campaigns.
“All the reports related to the incident that were received earlier were not complete; it had a particular context, but not a complete report,” an Election Commission official was quoted as saying by The Indian Express. “Now the authenticated speech has been received, which has the entire content. The matter is before the commission [to see if it violates the model code of conduct].”
On NaMo TV
The Election Commission also said that NaMo TV, a channel sponsored by the Bharatiya Janata Party, can telecast live rallies of the prime minister during the “silence period” as long as there is no mention of any constituency or candidate involved in that particular phase of voting, PTI reported.
Deputy Election Commissioner Sandeep Saxena said, “Since live speeches are not pre-certified election [campaign] material, they can be aired [by NaMo TV] during the silence period as long as there is no reference to candidate or constituency.”
The “silence period” is observed during 48 hours before conclusion of polling in a particular constituency, and, according to Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, election matter by means of “cinematograph, television or other similar apparatus” is prohibited. Section 126 does not apply to print media.
The Election Commission had said earlier this week that NaMo TV cannot display “election matter” during the prescribed “silence period”. The commission directed Delhi’s chief electoral officer to ensure that the order is followed. The Delhi CEO is the nodal officer to certify political content in TV channels and similar platforms which are broadcast nationally.
NaMo TV, named after Modi, is available on all major Direct to Home platforms. It features Modi’s speeches and other pro-BJP material. Last week, the Election Commission had barred the channel from telecasting recorded programmes with political content and political advertisements that are not certified by the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee.
The commission added that a committee has watched the biopic on Modi, PM Narendra Modi, and will soon submit its report to the Supreme Court. The court had on Monday asked the Election Commission to watch the biopic and reconsider its stance on staying the release of the film until the end of polling. The court asked the poll body to submit its decision to it in a sealed cover by April 22.
“We had asked a committee to watch the movie and that process is complete,” the Election Commission said. “They also met the producers, who have submitted their points. The matter is under consideration.”
The film has been directed by Omung Kumar and features Vivek Oberoi as Modi. The poll body had ruled that displaying material that promotes a political figure would go against the core principle of the Model Code of Conduct of creating a level-playing field for elections. The Model Code of Conduct has been in place since March 10.
Several Opposition parties have complained to judicial authorities and the poll body about the film, alleging that it was a propaganda vehicle for the ruling BJP.
Suspension of Odisha poll official
The panel said that it has appointed a senior official to submit a report regarding the suspension of a poll officer who purportedly checked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s helicopter in Odisha.
“The ECI instructions were not followed and in that context orders were issued by the commission,” an official told The Indian Express. “The action was taken after the commission was informed by the field officers. The commission appointed a senior officer, who will have the view of observer and the officers and submit the report to the commission by tomorrow. The matter is still under inquiry.”
The poll panel on Tuesday suspended Mohammed Mohsin, general observer of the Sambalpur parliamentary constituency, after a flying squad team in the region inspected Modi’s helicopter. Modi was in Sambalpur district for a rally. The commission’s order found Mohsin guilty of dereliction of duty as he did not act in conformity with instructions about dignitaries under Special Protection Group protection. The Congress accused the EC of bias following the action.