Prof. T K Thomas

Finally the Central Election Commission has taken resolute action of on the question of two major initiatives of the ruling party-release shortly of a biopic on its star campaigner, the Prime Minister and a satellite television channel Na Mo TV which has already been on air on major satellite TV platforms like Tata Sky and others for a few days now. The Commission has disallowed both of them. Obviously the Commission has taken cognizance of the complaints from opposition political parties that the Bharatiya Janata Party and its leaders have been violating the Model Code of Conduct with impunity. So in a major embarrassment and setback to the ruling dispensation, as of now, both the biopic [the release of which has been stalled till the elections are over] and the Na Mo TV cannot be shown as part of their campaign. It is another matter that some of the BJP spokespersons refuse to believe that the party has done anything wrong and project both the ventures as normal and legitimate as attempts to educate the public.

The Commission in its order No.491/MM/2019/Comm dated 10th April 2019 states at 10.1 that, ”any biopic material in the nature of biography /hagiography sub-serving the purpose of any political entity or any individual entity connected to it, which is intended to, or which has the potential to disturb the level playing field during the elections, should not be displayed in electronic media including cinematograph during the operation of MCC.”

The Commission emphasizes “the need for creating level playing field and a conducive electoral environment to all the stakeholders” and adds, “In catena of judgments Hon’ble Supreme Court has held and acknowledged that the Model Code of Conduct, which ensures free and fair electoral process, which is “sin qua non” for the electoral democracy.”

Media observers have been concerned about the blatant violation of the Model Code of Conduct and wondering the delay on the part of the Election Commission. The brazenness and arrogance to openly challenge the Code and the powers of the Commission have been given a befitting reply by the Election Commission.

The people involved in the making of the Modi biopic have been known and it was being projected as a film for exhibition in theaters in a few days. On the other hand there is mystery about Na Mo TV channel [exclusively highlighting the speeches, rallies etc of Prime Minister Modi and his achievements] being shown on major DTH platforms. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry reportedly told the Election Commission that Na Mo TV is a “platform service” for which the permission of the Ministry is not necessary! No one seems to know about the ownership, its licensing details, funding or people behind the Na Mo TV channel.

So far the Commission has been seen as a body that was going soft on the ruling party. With both the Modi biopic and Na Mo TV no more part of the campaign till the elections are over, the verbal diatribes against political opponents may also be toned down by political parties. Already questions have been raised by opposition parties about the BJP dragging in our security forces, their heroics and martyrdom in election rallies by ruling party leaders. The Prime Minister’s appeal at an election rally in Latur, Maharashtra [on 9th April] to first time voters to vote in honor of the brave Air Force pilots who attacked Balakot and the martyrs of Pulwama seems to be under scrutiny of the Commission and independent observers expect the Commission to take appropriate action.