Modi Violates EC Guidelines With ‘Ghar Mein Ghus Ke Maarna’ Remark
PM Modi directly linked activities of defence forces (“ghar mein ghus kar maarna”) to people voting for BJP.
In an election rally on 12 May in Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made comments that clearly seem to violate the Election Commission’s guidelines.
“Ghar mein ghus kar maarne ki, yeh riti niti aapko pasand hai? Iss riti niti ke liye hi desh kamal khila raha hai. (Do you like this practice of entering the enemy’s home territory and beating them? It is for this that the country is voting for BJP.)”PM Narendra Modi, in Kushinagar on 12 May
As early as on 19 March 2019, the Election Commission had issued the following guideline, "Parties/candidates are advised that their campaigners/candidates should desist, as part of their election campaigning, from indulging in any political propaganda involving activities of defence forces."
Modi’s comment in Kushinagar, ostensibly referring to the IAF airstrike in Balakot, clearly violates the aforementioned guideline by the Election Commission. But will the EC act against Modi or will he be allowed to get away with it?
Not the First Time Modi Has Used ‘Activities of Defence Forces’ to Seek Votes
In Maharashtra’s Latur district, Modi had remarked on 9 April, “I want to tell the first-time voters: Can your first vote be dedicated to the veer jawans (valiant soldiers) who carried out the air strike in Pakistan’s Balakot? Can your first vote be dedicated to the veer shaheed (brave martyrs) of Pulwama?”
On 1 May, 22 days after Modi’s speech, the EC gave him a clean chit arguing that the PM did not directly court votes for his party. Ashok Lavasa, one of the three Election Commissioners had reportedly agreed with regional EC officers that Modi’s comment violated the guidelines but the other two Commissioners, including CEC Sunil Arora, disagreed.
Why the EC’s ‘Clean Chit’ Reasoning Is Flawed
The argument that Modi was not violating the guidelines, because he did not specifically mention the BJP while asking first-time voters to dedicate their votes to the jawans of the airstrike, is flawed on two counts.
- At a BJP rally, making a speech for the BJP, the star campaigner of the BJP is asking voters to dedicate their votes for a particular “activity of the defence forces” that his government has sanctioned. Even a fifth-grader in the audience would draw the link that the vote dedication being requested was for the BJP.
- By giving Modi a clean chit on such flimsy grounds, because he didn’t directly name the BJP in that sentence, the Election Commission effectively encouraged politicians to make dog whistle speeches that work past EC guidelines on mere technicalities such as this one.
Faulty Reasoning for Previous Clean Chit Not Applicable This Time
However, even the flawed reasoning the EC used last time is not applicable for Modi’s Kushinagar speech. That is because, in Kushinagar, Modi directly linked “activities of defence forces” (“ghar mein ghus kar maarna”) to people voting for BJP (“iss riti niti ke liye hi desh kamal khila raha hai”).
In this particular example, the EC cannot possibly argue that Modi did not directly court votes for his party by using the activities of the defence forces, something which the EC has itself forbidden.
So, the question is, will the EC act? And if yes, when?
Too Late for It to Matter?
At the time of writing this article, it is 14 May and there are only four more days of campaigning left in this general election. The seventh and final phase of polling is on 19 May.
If the EC takes any longer to act, it will be seen as being too late for it to matter in any way. But even at this late stage, and given the allegations of bias raised against it during this election, the EC should look at such an apparent and direct violation strictly. Even if it is one made by the prime minister himself. Better late than never.
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