New Delhi: From boarding passes to billboards and tea-cups, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s images and messages appear splashed all over despite the model code of conduct coming into force for the Lok Sabha elections. These instances have resulted in complaints to the Election Commission, but no serious action has been forthcoming yet.
The latest incident reported on Friday involved a journalist, who while travelling on train number 12040 Kathgodam Shatabdi found that tea was being served in cups which bore the “main bhi chowkidar” slogan of Modi.
IRCTC says ad was not approved, imposes Rs 1 lakh fine on licensee
The journalist immediately brought the issue to the notice of the Election Commission. Another complaint was lodged with the Railways. In its response, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) said, “The space in cups and other such material is used for paid publicity by the licensees as per the agreement.”
It said the licensees are supposed to take permission from the IRCTC before printing an advertisement. “However, in this case no such approval has been taken,” it said, adding, “Rs 1 lakh fine has been imposed on the licensee.” A show cause notice has also been served to the licensee, it said.
‘Chowkidar’ chai by Indian Railways…I mean, really! The Quasi-Judicial body called ECI ki ‘Chowkidari’ ki koi parwaah hi nahi ?? Matlab Institutions ko mazaak banaa ke rakh dena hae ? pic.twitter.com/U6PqdsoMb8
— Ashish/Aashu (ABP News) (@AshishSinghLIVE) March 29, 2019
EC urges using app to time-stamp proof of MCC violations
The EC spokesperson, in response, circulated details of the cVIGIL app. “‘cVIGIL’ stands for “vigilant citizen” and emphasises the proactive and responsible role citizens can play in the conduct of free and fair elections,” the spokesperson said.
The app provides “time stamped evidentiary proof of model code of conduct / expenditure violation, having live photo/video with auto location data.”
On the site, the commission insists that “this unique combination of timestamping, live photo with auto location can be fairly relied upon by election machinery to navigate to the right spot and take prompt action.”
The app also states that “presently there is a lack of fast information channel to transmit and track complaints on MCC violations” and “delay in reporting of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) violations has often resulted in the culprits escaping detection from the flying squads of election commission entrusted to ensure enforcement”.
The app is expected to fill in all these gaps and create a fast-track complaint reception and redressal system.
Complaints of code violations galore
The commission has been receiving several complaints about code violations – mostly by the BJP government at the Centre.
On March 25, a former director general of Punjab police, Shashi Kant, flagged the issue of Air India boarding passes bearing the image of Modi and Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani.
At New Delhi airport today March 25th, 2019.
My Air India Boarding Pass, prominently flashes Narendra Modi, "Vibrant Gujrat" & Vijay Rupani. Picture of boarding pass is below.
Wonder why we are wasting public money on this Election Commission, which doesn't see, hears or speak… pic.twitter.com/7t49cNIlAR
— Shashi Kant IPS (@shashikantips54) March 25, 2019
On March 20, the Trinamool Congress complained to the Election Commission about the Railways distributing tickets with photos of the Prime Minister on it.
The Election Commission subsequently directed both the Railways and Air India not to distribute tickets or boarding passes with Modi’s image on them.
On Saturday, the EC sent notices to the Ministry of Railways and the Ministry of Civil Aviation over the use of Modi’s photographs on tickets and boarding passes. The ministries were asked to file their on the same day.
But, this has not stopped violations of the MCC. Journalists and other citizens have constantly been flagging violations of the norms.
In many places, government construction sites have billboards with the prime minister’s image on them. One such instance was pointed out by a journalist to the Election Commission.
Complaints against Rajasthan governor, NITI Aayog member and PSUs
The EC has also been notified that while governors hold a constitutional post and are not supposed to campaign for a party, Rajasthan governor Kalyan Singh last week allegedly backed Modi.
“All of us are BJP workers. We genuinely want the BJP to win. We want that Modiji should become the Prime Minister… It is necessary for the nation and society that Modiji becomes the PM again,” he was shown speaking in his hometown Aligarh. The EC chose to remain silent when the issue was brought to its notice.
The EC has also been asked to decide if the mass transfers and promotions of employees in some public sector undertakings like the NTPC, REC, PFC and Hudco constituted a violation of the MCC.
There have also been instances of NITI Aayog members speaking in favour of the BJP or against the opposition. Recently the Election Commission issued a notice to the panel’s vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar for his comments on the Nyunatam Aay Yojana (NYAY) or minimum income scheme announced by Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
PM’s ASAT announcement does not violate MCC
Allegations were also made that Modi’s decision to announce the ASAT test without taking prior permission from the EC. A complaint was filed with the commission by opposition parties.
The EC constituted a “committee of officers” to probe if the conduct violated the MCC. It found on Friday because the speech was broadcast live on YouTube and not Doordarshan or All India Radio, it did not amount to misusing government machinery to gain an advantage.