VOICES BUFFET MAGAZINE PUSHPESH PANT G PARTHASARATHY ANAND NEELAKANTAN RAVI SHANKAR SHINIE ANTONY SADHGURU JAGGI VASUDEV PEOPLE WELLNESS BOOKS FOOD ART & CULTURE ENTERTAINMENT NEW DELHI APRIL 21 2019 SUNDAY PAGES 12 Guardian’s Dilemma By MEDHA DUTTA YADAV “So you are basically saying you (the EC) are toothless and powerless against hate speeches. The most you can do is send a notice to the offending candidate. If the candidate replies, send him or her an advisory. Despite this, if there is violation of Model Code of Conduct, you may then file a criminal complaint... That is all? Those are your powers under the law? You are duty-bound... In certain matters… time is limited. You have to act promptly. Whether the outcome is good or bad, you have to get into it immediately.” Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi to the Election Commission, April 15 VIOLATIONS GALORE The EC issued an advisory on March 19 asking all political parties and their candidates not to use the defence forces during their election campaign. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a rally in Latur district of Maharashtra on April 9 sought votes in the name of Balakot air strikes and the Pulwama martyrs. Passengers of the Delhi-Kathgodam Shatabdi Express were served tea in cups with the PM’s #MainBhiChowkidar slogan. I f Parliament is the custodian of democracy the , Election Commission of India (EC) is the umpire of political morality . This General Election, being held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19 for the 17th Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim and Odisha, is the most virulent and polarising of them all since the first votes were cast in 1952. In the eye of the storm is India’s Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), Sunil Arora, who succeeded OP Rawat as the 23rd CEC. As fierce poll campaigns ratchet up the venom and histrionics, the commission is hard-pressed to protect the Model Code of Conduct (MCC). The culprits are not just local leaders and state motormouths. They include Prime Minister Narendra Modi, challenger Rahul Gandhi and a host of Union ministers and Opposition leaders. Of late, there are allegations that the EC is being manipulated by the government. Arora has met the allegation and challenges both punitively and objectively He faces three daunting . challenges: Violations of the MCC, punishing hate speeches and seizing political black money and contraband. In spite of government claims of eradicating black money agencies , have seized cash, liquor, drugs, gold and other contraband worth `25 billion—twice the value of goods seized in the 2014 elections. Around `1 billion in cash and goods are being confiscated daily India’s ongoing . polls are the world’s costliest election with expenditure set to touch $7 billion, says the Centre for Media Studies. The 2016 US presidential elections cost $2.4 billion. In a statement on a non-partisan action plan on misuse of social media, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, former Governor of West Bengal, says, “India has a fairly robust electoral code of conduct, which scrutinises campaigning on the ground and through conventional media, but the same has not translated into a scrutiny of online campaigning. This has enabled the political parties to spend substantially on digital media without any checks.” The MCC, issued in March, is a set of guidelines consensually agreed on by all political parties, in order to maintain high standards of public morality in poll campaigns and provide a level-playing field. On March 26, a group of 66 retired civil servants wrote to the President to stop the release of a biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 11, when the election campaign would be at its height. The letter said the film violates the MCC and gives the BJP the upper hand. The day before the release date, the EC banned the screening during poll period. The commission cannot, however, interfere in the digital broadcast of the film since there are no guidelines in place yet for social media promotion. The court, however, has asked the EC to view the Vivek Oberoi film by April 22 to decide whether it should be banned. So, is the EC really relevant? “I would clearly dismiss any suggestion that holds that today the EC is irrelevant just because the number of violations is increasing and the EC’s hands are full. The EC has to evolve its strategy and response as the new challenges emerge in every election, and it always does. The absence of the EC would in effect give a free hand to the violators and the violations would increase manifold and would go totally unchecked,” believes Nalin Kohli, Supreme Court lawyer and official spokesperson of the BJP . On April 4, Modi’s ‘Main Bhi Chowkidar’ programme, which was WHEN WAS MCC INTRODUCED? The Model Code of Conduct was first introduced by the Election Commission (EC) in the 1960 Assembly elections in Kerala. In October 1979, the EC came up with a comprehensive code. broadcast live on DD News, its YouTube channel, and its social media handles, invited a host of complaints. The Congress protested vehemently forcing the EC to open , an investigation. When UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath politicised the Army at a political rally by calling it “Modiji ki sena”, the EC could only chide him “to be more careful”. Former army officer and Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh wrote to the CEC seeking action against Modi’s invocation of the Pulwama terror attack and Balakot air strikes. “Can’t let independence of armed forces be undermined,” he tweeted. The EC is yet to act on it. Yogi’s Bajrangbaliand-Ali statement earned the political monk an EC rap on the knuckles. Yogi explained that he was responding to BSP chief Mayawati’s remark requesting Muslims not to split their votes. Interestingly even , Mayawati is in the dock for her statements. But all this was only after the court pulled up the EC and reminded the poll panel that it was “duty-bound to take action and cannot sleep over such issues.” In March, a photo of an Indian Railways teacup with the words Turn to page 2 “In western UP, where people of all communities live… in Saharanpur, Bareilly, where there is a huge Muslim population… I want to tell the Muslim community… don’t divide your votes… give it to the BSP, SP and RLD alliance.” 48 hours AZAM KHAN, SP “Inke neeche ka underwear khaki rang ka hai.” 72 hours Union Minister Uma Bharti called her a “chor ki patni” and said she will have no impact on Uttar Pradesh Lok Sabha elections outcome. A group of retired civil servants wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind alleging that the election body did not count it as a violation when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the successful test of an anti-satellite missile. A biopic on the life of Narendra Modi was slated for release on April 11, before the EC banned it on April 9. But a web series on Modi is running in some states and a film on the ‘virtues of demonetisation’ has been made in Maharashtra and is scheduled to release soon. Goa BJP complained to the EC against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for violating the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) by propagating fear-mongering among the Christian and the Muslim communities at a public meeting. Five schools in Assam’s Hailakandi were issued a showcause notice for violating the MCC by sending students to Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s rally at BANNED FROM CAMPAIGNING MAYAWATI, BSP Taking a jibe at Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, YOGI ADITYANATH, BJP “Agar Congress, SP, BSP ko ‘Ali’ par vishwaas hai toh humein bhi ‘Bajrang Bali’ par vishwaas hai.” 72 hours MANEKA GANDHI, BJP “I am winning. But if my victory is without Muslims, I won’t feel that good. Dil khatta ho jayega. Then when a Muslim comes to me for work, I think let it be, how does it matter. It’s all give and take. We aren’t all sons of Mahatma Gandhi. It’s not that we keep on giving and then losing in the election.” 48 hours Panchgram. Congress’s Navjot Singh Sidhu, seeking votes at a rally in minority-dominated Barasol, Bihar, said, “Main aapko chetavni dene aya hun Muslim bhaaiyon, ye baant rahe hain apko. Agar tum log ikatthe hue, ekjut hoke vote dala toh Modi sulat jayega.” Senior Shiv Sena leader and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut openly challenged the MCC, when he said: “Hum aise log hain. Bhaad mein gaya kanoon, achar sanhita bhi hum dekh lenge. Jo baat hamare mann mein hai wo agar hum mann se bahar nahi nikalein to ghutan si hoti hai.” The EC sent a notice to Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao for violation of the poll code over his derogatory remark against Hindus at a public rally in Karimnagar.
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