When chief election commissioner of India Sunil Arora announced the schedule for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections on March 10, the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) came into effect.
The election commission’s MCC ensures that all candidates and parties operate on a level playing field and that the ruling party doesn’t have an unfair advantage. There are several acts that are considered the violation of the MCC, including making inflammatory speeches, using defence personnel in poll advertisements, laying new ground for projects or public initiatives, among others.
Also read: Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Model Code of Conduct, explained
This year, social media posts also came under the purview of the election commission of India (ECI), with the poll panel monitoring what was posted on some of the ubiquitous networks, including Facebook and WhatsApp.
However, the presence of the MCC doesn’t always deter some of the wily politicians from flouting the norms if it can help garner a few votes more.
And this year has been no different.
By the time the voters cast their ballots in several parts of India in the first of the seven-phase election on Thursday, the ECI had tallied 261 violations of the MCC.
On the first day of the MCC going into effect, there were two violations, including one from Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Kailash Vijayvargia. Since then infractions have been committed by relatively unknown quantities to the political heavyweights like Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
The Balakot air strike in March ensured that national security would be a big election topic and in the early days, several politicians got a rap from the ECI for using photos of the soldiers in their campaign posters.
However, Adityanath took it up a notch by calling the Indian Army “Modi ji ki Sena”. The comment was registered as an MCC violation. In its decision on the matter, the ECI asked him to abstain from using army-related issues for political purposes.
There have been the garden variety violations, including the seizures of cash, liquor, mobile phones meant for distribution among voters. But among the more innovative violations included the one against the Indian Railways.
“It has to come to the notice of the [Election] Commission that tea-cups were provided to the passengers in the train of the Indian Railway by the NGO namely ‘Sankalp’, which contained the political slogan “Mein hoon chowkidar” of Bharatiya Janata Party," the ECI website states.
Banks and post offices have also been used as campaign vehicles. Sample this from Chandigarh: “It was noticed by the authorities on suo- moto basis that large size of banners with photographs of Sh. Narendra Modi of BJP was displayed at the premises of ten (10) branches of different banks and at one post office."
However, two of the most high profile violations noted by the ECI includes the release of a biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the launch of a TV channel dedicated to his speeches. The ECI stopped the release of the film ‘PM Narendra Modi’, until the conclusion of the election.
“Any biopic material in the nature of biography/hagiography sub-serving the purposes of any political entity or any individual entity connected to it, which is intended to, or which has the potential to disturb the level playing field during the elections, should not be displayed in electronic media including cinematograph during the operation of MCC," the poll panel said.
“Though the display materials claim to be a part of creative content, it is contended that these have propensity and potentiality to affect the level playing field which is not in consonance with the provisions of Model Code of Conduct," it added.After initial speculation about the people behind NaMo TV, the BJP’s IT cell has revealed that the channel is indeed its brainchild. The ECI’s order on the matter is expected soon.