New Delhi: The Election Commission (EC) has sought the health ministry’s response on the “factual position” on the use of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photo on COVID-19 vaccination certificates, days after the Trinamool Congress (TMC) registered a complaint saying it violates the model code of conduct (MCC).
According to the Indian Express, an EC official said that the poll panel wants to ‘ascertain the facts first’. “For instance, whether these certificates are indeed being distributed on the instructions of the health ministry. As a matter of routine, we always seek a response from all the involved parties in such complaints,” the official, who did not wish to be identified, said.
News agency PTI reported that the commission has also sought a report from the West Bengal chief electoral officer on the matter. The state CEO has been directed to asked to verify the veracity of the TMC’s complaint.
Based on the CEO’s report, the poll panel will decide the future course of action, PTI reported.
The ruling TMC in West Bengal had on Tuesday approached the poll panel about the PM’s image on vaccination certificates generated through the Co-Win platform being a violation of the MCC in Bengal and other poll-bound states.
It had termed the picture a misuse of official machinery by the prime minister.
The model code came into force on February 26, the day the Election Commission had announced assembly polls in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.
Reacting to these allegations, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh termed it as “baseless” and said the vaccination drive had started before the announcement of the election dates.
“If a government project starts before the declaration of an election, it may continue in the same form. At petrol pumps, hoardings are advertising several welfare projects of the Centre. These are put up on private land,” Ghosh said.
On Wednesday, the EC had directed all petrol pumps in poll-going states to remove hoardings or advertisements with the prime minister’s photographs within 72 hours.
As The Wire analysed recently, India has emerged as perhaps the only country so far whose leader is using vaccination certificates to “promote his own politics and cult of personality”. Apart from including the beneficiary’s details and other vaccine related-information, each certificate also a prominent banner with the photograph of Prime Minister Modi, along with exhortations in English (“Together We Will Defeat Covid-19”) and Hindi (“davai bhi aur kadai bhi“, “medicines as well as rigour”).
Elections for West Bengal’s 294-member assembly will be held in eight phases between March 27 and April 29.