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Press Trust Of India
New Delhi, March 16, 2014
BJP's Chai pe Charcha with NaMo programme has run into trouble with Election Commission as poll officials in Uttar Pradesh have registered a case against some party leaders for "enticement" of voters by distributing free tea in violation of norms and the model code. Poll authorities have said that they consider the serving of free tea as enticement of voters.

"Any kind of allurement or enticement of voters during the poll process is not permissible as per law," UP's chief electoral officer, Umesh Sinha, told PTI.

Chai pe Charcha sees the party organise events where free tea is served to people gathered at tea stalls across the country while BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi answers questions from the public.

Top poll officials said that a case was registered under provisions of IPC against certain local BJP leaders at Kotwali police station at Mohammadi in Lakhimpur Kheri district.

Sources said that BJP leaders had obtained permission from UP's chief electoral officer for holding the Chai Pe Charcha programme on March 8 at a tea stall in the area.

But Sinha said that permission was granted for the event to take place as per the provisions of the Model Code.

However, poll officials reported that free tea was served to participants at the discussion, which was construed as bribing the voters.

Now, with BJP proposing to organise the third phase of Chai pe Charcha with NaMo across the country on March 20, the party could face further trouble.

But the view in Nirvachan Sadan, EC's headquarters in New Delhi, is different with poll officials saying that serving a cup of tea worth Rs. 2 cannot be termed enticement.

"The money (spent on serving tea) can be added to BJP's poll expenditure," said an official.

But UP CEO Sinha holds a different view.

"There is no ban on holding of such events with prior permission... But anything which is in violation of the Model Code of Conduct will not be permitted at such events.

"Appropriate action would be taken in cases of any violation," Sinha said, adding that any kind of free distribution by political parties will be regarded as an attempt to entice voters.

Asked about the EC action, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said at a briefing that while the party would examine the matter, the poll panel should consider allowing new campaigning styles which are in sync with the changing times.