#PollVault: Supreme Court, EC Give Opposition Reasons to Celebrate

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New Delhi: Wednesday turned out to be a news-filled day that gave multiple chances to the opposition to hit back at the ruling party.

This after the prime minister on Tuesday – just two days before the first phase of general elections – had thrown caution to the wind and in three consecutive speeches openly asked first-time voters to remember the slain soldiers in Pulwama before casting their vote.

“I want to ask my first-time voters, can your first vote be dedicated to the soldiers who conducted the Balakot strikes? Can your first vote be in the name of the martyrs who lost their lives in Pulwama?” Narendra Modi said while addressing a crowd in Latur on Tuesday.

SC rejects Centre’s objections in Rafale case

The blatant politicisation of the national security issue by none other than the prime minister himself had left the opposition party brooding. However, the Supreme Court came to their relief on the morning of April 10, rejecting the government’s objections against the release of certain documents regarding the Rafale deal.

The petitioners had sought a fresh probe on the controversial aircraft deal in light of multiple investigating reports published in The Hindu that highlighted severe procedural violations in the defence contract with France.

Also read: SC Rejects Centre’s Objection That Rafale Deal Documents Are ‘Privileged’

The Centre had refused to produce the documents in the court, claiming they were “privileged” and that the documents published by The Hindu were procured in an illegal manner. However, the three-judge bench of the apex court dismissed the Centre’s objections.

While this may mean that the Centre may have to produce the controversial documents during the hearings of the review petition, the opposition had reasons to celebrate.  

Opposition hits back

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who had coined the slogan “Chowkidaar chor hai”, soon claimed that the SC, in effect, accepted that the Rafale deal was murky.

Buoyed by the order, he said in Amethi – where he filed his nomination papers:

A few days back the Prime Minister gave an interview to a Television Channel wherein he said that the Supreme Court and the so on and so forth authorities have given him (Narendra Modi) a clean chit in Rafale deal. But today, the Supreme Court decision has made it amply clear that it is ‘Chowkidar’ himself, who has facilitated theft. The Supreme Court accepted that there is some corruption in the Rafale deal and as I have been maintaining from the beginning, brothers and sisters, the moment an investigation is held in the Rafale deal, only two names will emerge that of Shri Narendra Modi Ji and Anil Ambani Ji.”

He took the opportunity to invite the prime minister to debate on the Rafale deal once again.

Attacking the Centre for attempting to invoke the Official Secrets Act against The Hindu, Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said, “Modiji, you can run and lie as much as you want but sooner or later the truth comes out. The skeletons in Rafale scam are tumbling out one by one. And now there is ‘no official secrets act’ to hide behind.”

Communist leader Sitaram Yechury said that the Rafale deal promoted “cronyism” while the Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati thought that the Modi government’s attempt to bury the Rafale controversy by politicising national security issues was dealt a blow by the SC.

EC puts a hold on Modi biopic, NaMo TV

As opposition leaders cheered the SC decision, the Election Commission gave them yet another reason to celebrate. For some time now, the opposition parties had been seeking the commission’s intervention to stop the Modi biopic from releasing during elections.

Similarly, they had been objecting to the sudden emergence of NaMo TV – a 24-hour channel – on satellite television across the country even as the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) was in place.  

However, on Wednesday, the EC stalled the release of the Vivek Oberoi-starrer PM Narendra Modi during the election period as it thought it may “disturb the level playing field”.

According to sources, the EC’s decision would also mean an end of NaMo TV during elections. In a day of stern decisions against blatant use of surrogate publicity by the ruling party, the EC also issued a notice to the national broadcaster Doordarshan asking it to “desist” from giving any preferential treatment or disproportionate airtime coverage to any party.

Also read: Ruling Against ‘Surrogate Publicity’, EC Suspends Release of Modi Biopic

The opposition parties had in multiple complaints requested the Commission against the misuse of Doordarshan by the Modi government. The Congress party had gone ahead and promised in its manifesto that if it comes to power, it will ensure that all parties get free coverage on Doordarshan.

Pakistan prime minister bats for Modi in India

Meanwhile, yet another embarrassment for the BJP came from across the border. Modi’s counterpart in Pakistan, Imran Khan left the saffron party red-faced as he said that a Modi government in India would be better than a Congress dispensation for peace talks with Pakistan.

The opposition soon seized the chance to attack the BJP which has left no stone unturned to portray Pakistan as an enemy state.

The Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, too tweeted, “Why does Pakistan want Modi-ji to win? PM Modi, please tell the nation how deep your relationship is with Pakistan? All Indians should know that if PM Modi wins then crackers will be burst in Pakistan.”  

The Kashmir-based leaders Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti too questioned the Modi government on the issue.

Gujarat leader Alpesh Thakor leaves the Congress

Although the opposition remained jubilant, the Congress party had to suffer a setback in Gujarat. Alpesh Thakor, who enjoys a considerable hold over the influential Thakor community, quit the grand old party.

Thakor, who had joined the party before the state’s assembly elections in 2017, was a crucial catch and helped the Congress win a substantial number of seats in north Gujarat. He was reportedly angry over the party denying tickets to members of Thakor Sena, a social outfit he founded.

However, unlike other defectors, Alpesh said he had no intentions of joining the BJP.

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