The Election Commission has come down severely on the national carriers, Air India and Indian Railways for their casualness in enforcing the election code, as the commission cracks its whip on misuse of state machinery in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections.
In letters voicing its displeasure to both, the election watchdog reprimanded them for their 'lackadaisical' approach toward code violations and demanded that they submit their reports within the week. The election commission wrote to the Railways, 'It has come to the notice of the 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 of the Bharatiya Janata Party and such matter is closely related to violation of the Model Code of Conduct'.
'The commission, taking cognisance of the incident, has directed that the matter may be looked into immediately and a report may be furnished by 11:00 hours on April 4.' This came up after a passenger noticed paper tea cups that railway catering used to serve bore the slogan 'Main bhi chowkidar'—a campaign the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is using to drum up support. After the image he tweeted went viral, Indian Railways defended itself saying the cups were used without its approval, but said that it had withdrawn the tea cups and penalised the contractor.
In a second letter, the commission criticised the railways for not complying with its instructions. This reprimand pertains to a separate code violation before the tea cup issue. In this, Railways was found issuing tickets with Mr. Narendra Modi’s image on it. Railways said then that it was an 'unintentional and inadvertent mistake'.
In a similarly worded letter to the Civil Aviation Secretary, PS Kharola, the election watchdog said that Air India failed to respond to its notice. Its deadline for response was two days ago. 'The Commission expresses its serious displeasure over the non-compliance of the Commission's lawful instructions and lackadaisical approach towards enforcing the Model Code of Conduct,' the poll panel said.
The commission said its displeasure should also be conveyed to the Air India Chairman-Managing Director, Mr. Ashwani Lohani for 'the lapse of the organisation'. Air India ran into trouble for its boarding passes bearing photos of the Prime Minister and the Gujarat Chief Minister.
The Election Commission issued a notice of the election violation to the Civil Aviation Ministry on March 26. That notice said that the airline was found in violation of the model code of conduct, and referred to clause VII of the code which states that 'Issue of advertisement at the cost of public exchequer ... regarding achievements with a view to furthering the prospects of the party in power shall be scrupulously avoided'.