Modi & Yogi Interviews: How EC Has Fallen Silent Before the ‘Double-Engine’

PM Modi and Yogi's recent interviews blatantly violate the Model Code of Conduct. But will EC take action?

5 min read
Hindi Female

It looks as if Uttar Pradesh is in the avuncular grip of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The dictionary meaning of ‘avuncular’ is suggestive of a relationship with an uncle, especially in kindliness or geniality. Indeed so, because Uttar Pradesh is the state that made him the Prime Minister twice. How else does one explain the extreme fondness of Modi towards this election-bound state, where he is wantonly breaking the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) and pushing the boundaries of election laws?


How EC Acted Against Rahul Gandhi's Interview in 2017

Section 126 (3) of the Representation of the People Act prohibits candidates and campaigners from putting out ‘election matter’ calculated to influence voters in the 48 hours before polling ends, whether through TV or theatrical performance. Yet, that is precisely what the Prime Minister did in the interview he gave to ANI on the eve of the first phase of polling for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election on 10 February.

The interview was not about the affairs of the state but was about the BJP’s approach to the UP election, and Modi’s answers made it clear that he was doing his best to influence the results in favour of his party.

The interview was widely broadcast on all TV channels. The Election Commission of India (ECI) did not even whimper. Ironically, in 2017, the same Commission had invoked Section 126 and directed the police to take action against various TV channels for broadcasting an interview that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi gave on the eve of the second phase of the Gujarat Assembly election that year. This time too, the ECI reiterated the bar. But Narendra Modi was sure that the Commission would not act against him because his avuncular grip extends to the Nirvachan Sadan too.

With an inactive ECI, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath followed suit. On Monday, 14 February, as voting was underway for the second phase of elections, in an interview with ANI he said that 20 per cent of people in the State had a negative mentality, who always oppose the BJP and support mafias and criminals. Hailing the scrapping of triple talaq, Yogi said that the Modi government has always cared about the rights and dignity of Muslim women.

In the same breath, he attacked Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, saying that the siblings are enough to destroy their party. He also said that after the first phase, it is clear that the BJP will form the government again in Uttar Pradesh with an overwhelming majority, and that the 'double-engine’ government will return to power by achieving the 300-seat mark.


Modi's Kanpur Speech

This claim may or may not materialise, but the 'double-engine’ had already silenced the ECI effectively. Assured of this silence, Modi pressed the accelerator. On 14 February, when the second phase of Uttar Pradesh polls was in full swing, Modi was at his oratorical best, campaigning in Kanpur. The BJP had made arrangements for its virtual broadcast in seven assembly seats of Kanpur, where polling is to be held in the third phase.

The hour-long talk was flashed on almost all English and Hindi TV channels and was seen live by the people casting their votes in the second phase. Let’s see some of the gems he came out with.

  • Samajwadi Party, the principal opposition in the state had distributed areas among family members for loot during their rule in the state. If voted to power, this party would create "mafia ganj" in every district of the state. But 'Mafiagiri' and 'Parivaarwadi' will be defeated by the people of UP”;

  • “The law against triple talaq has saved thousands of Muslim women in UP and Muslim women voters are coming out of their homes to vote for Modi peacefully as they want to bless me.”

  • “According to the trends in the first phase of UP elections and the way people are supporting the party in the second phase, BJP will return to power with drumrolls.”

  • “People of every caste, people of every class are voting without division … without any confusion … for the fast development of UP.”

  • “They made lakhs of fake ration cards. Double engine govt ended this fake ration card scheme. Today, crores of the UP public are receiving ration free of cost. Stoves of my poor sisters and mothers will never be turned off.”

The interview and the live broadcast of the Kanpur campaign when voting was in progress in another part of the state were all serious violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) and media guidelines issued by the ECI. What is worse, the contents of the speech are in direct conflict with the MCC.


Can the EC Even Imagine Going Against BJP?

To understand it better, let us look at the MCC, which was first adopted by the ECI with the agreement of all political parties in 1968, to provide a level playing field to all contesting political parties and ensure that the ruling party does not get an undue advantage because it happens to be in the office at the time of the election.

The Code was consolidated and re-issued in its present form in 1991. It was given teeth in 1994 by amending The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) order, 1968 and incorporating Section 16A, which gives power to the ECI to suspend or withdraw recognition of a recognised political party for its failure to observe the MCC or follow lawful directions and instructions of the Commission.

As one could see, the speeches made by Modi directly violate Code 1 and Code 2 of the MCC:

  • “No party or candidate shall indulge in any activity which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic.”

  • “Criticism of other political parties, when made, shall be confined to their policies and programme, past record and work. Parties and Candidates shall refrain from criticism of all aspects of private life, not connected with the public activities of the leaders or workers of other parties. Criticism of other parties or their workers based on unverified allegations or distortion shall be avoided.”

For such ‘double-engine’ violations, the only option for the ECI is to either suspend or withdraw the recognition of the political party (BJP) after giving it a reasonable opportunity of showing cause, as provided in Section 16A. Will the ECI even imagine taking such an action?

In the last Parliament and a few key state Assembly elections, the ECI seemingly scheduled the polls to suit the convenience of the ruling party and its super-star campaigners, who have been violating the MCC with impunity.


The Commission Has Lost Teeth

During the Parliament election, the party got away scot-free even after Modi blatantly politicised India’s armed forces, and Yogi Adityanath calle the Indian Army “Modi ki Sena” (Modi’s Army).

Another glaring violation was the “NaMo TV” that cropped up on 26 March 2019 and disappeared on 20 May 2019, the day after voting ended. The ECI had no clue and never bothered to look into it.

It looks as if the ECI and the MCC are poles apart when it comes to the ruling party, and the twain may never meet – how tragic for India’s electoral democracy.

(The author is editor of the book “Electoral Democracy: An Inquiry into the Fairness and Integrity of Elections in India”. This is an opinion article and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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