Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate has been dragged into a controversy when he flashed lotus symbol while attending a Press Meet. Congress and other parties opposed to Modi have made a complaint with the Election Commission who, in turn, have advised Ahmedabad Crime Branch police to file an FIR against him. The FIR was registered immediately against Modi for violation of model code of conduct on the ground that he brandished BJP’s symbol on TV channel who were telecasting interview live. This is a serious violation of model code of conduct of election that no public rallies are allowed to propagate a political agenda.
It is unfortunate that a Chief Minister of one state who is projected as a probable Prime Minister of the country is seen flouting electoral process and disrespecting laws of the land. Brandishing electoral symbol is an offence and warrants for action because voters must not be subjected to any annoyance or intimidation.
Modi rivals lambasted him for breaking model code and suggest that he is a habitual offender and exemplary action should be initiated against him. This is obviously a violation of Representation of Peoples’ Act and it does not behold a prime ministerial candidate either. The Election Commission did not hesitate and directed authorities to file FIR against Modi. They have also directed that action should be taken against TV channels.
If Modi’s accusation is proved that his speech is intended to influence and affect results of the election, the punishment may go from imposing fine and even a jail upto two years. Undermining the power of constitutional bodies like Election Commission is a serious fault which the Election Commission’s did not allow opposition to raise doubt about their integrity when they did not take time to put Modi on the dock.
Later, at a rally in Tirupati, Modi said it was the first FIR of his life and he would never forget the day. He even tried to politicise it by arguing that he showed a lotus instead of a knife or a gun or a pistol. BJP defended Modi’s flashing of a lotus symbol, arguing that he was away from the prohibited zone of the poll booth. The BJP, while saying it respects the EC’s order and will abide by its ruling, defended Narendra Modi by pointing out that he was not at fault as it was not an organised press conference.
According to Election Commission sources, an impromptu bite by Modi to TV personnel would have been in order; however, holding a well organised twenty minute long press meet outside the polling station, aired live on most TV channels, amounted to a deliberate attempt to influence the mind of voters while polling was underway.
The Election Commission’s prompt action was in sharp contrast to its failure to file an FIR under similar circumstances during the BJP’s manifesto release on April 7. Although EC made it clear beforehand that the telecast of BJP’s manifesto release while polling was underway for six Lok Sabha seats would make electronic media liable for action. No action was taken when most TV channels covered the event live.