Narendra Modi: Election Commission studying PM Modi’s remarks on Balakot

Members of the Election Commission are debating whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent speech in Maharashtra, exhorting first-time voters to dedicate the ballot to CRPF jawans killed in Pulwama and IAF pilots who raided Balakot, violated the model code of conduct.

A key question under discussion is alleged violation of EC advisory to political parties to desist from making references to defence-related activities during the political campaign and publicity material. Another issue being discussed is whether the PM’s comments can be interpreted as a campaign pitch for a party or leader. The EC wants to take a studied view before deciding whether a notice should be issued to the PM.

It is learnt that the district electoral officer’s report stopped short of terming the PM’s comments as a clear violation. The report said that the PM’s remarks were “inconsistent” with recent EC advisories.

“First-time voters, can you dedicate your vote to the brave soldiers who carried out the air strike on Balakot in Pakistan? Can you dedicate your vote to the brave martyrs of Pulwama,” Modi had requested at a rally in Latur last week. The remarks sparked a controversy and the Congress and CPM took up the matter with the EC.

Sources told ETthat if the EC concluded that there was a direct political exhortation for a particular party or candidate through the comments, it will be seen as an unambiguous violation of the code, attracting a show-cause notice to the prime minister.

The matter of raising activities of defence forces was the other key aspect EC mentioned in its recent advisories. EC’s March 9 advisory followed complaints over BJP ads sporting pictures of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, captured and released by Pakistan after his aircraft crashed in PoK following a dog fight. There were also reports of political ads sporting IAF jets and politicians sporting Army fatigues.

The EC advisory said that photographs of chief of Army staff or any other defence personnel or photographs of functions of defence forces should not be associated with or used in any manner of advertisement/propaganda/campaigning or in any other manner in connection with elections by political parties and candidates.

In another advisory issued on March 19, EC advised political parties to “desist, as part of their election campaigning, from indulging in propaganda involving activities of the defence forces.”

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