Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi criticised the “authoritarianism” and “overconfidence” of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in a blog post on Saturday – observed as national voters’ day.
Asking people not to underestimate the value of their votes, the BJP prime ministerial candidate cited the 1977 Lok Sabha elections.
“Intoxicated with power, overconfidence and authoritarianism, the ruling party and the Prime Minister declared elections,” wrote Modi.
“Censorship was near complete and dissenting voices were silenced but when the people spoke they spoke louder than everything else. This is the power of your vote.”
January 25 is celebrated as the foundation day of the Election Commission of India, which was set up in 1951.
Raising awareness about the importance of voting is the norm on national voters’ day. But Modi’s blog and newspaper advertisement sounded more like electioneering, even though he exhorted the public to exercise its franchise.
“Our nation is at a very crucial crossroads – now it is time to free our country from shackles of poverty, corruption, vote-bank politics and misgovernance,” Modi wrote in his blog.
While most election officers said there was nothing wrong on Modi issuing an advertisement on the day, a senior election commission functionary said Modi could have avoided the political references.
“Asking people to register as voters without giving them reasons for the same would have been better,” said the official on condition of anonymity.
Former chief election commissioner TS Krishnamurthy said it was for an audit to determine whether Modi had used government money for the advertisement.
“If the BJP had issued the advertisement, there is nothing objectionable,” he said.
In his blog, Modi also praised the election commission for its “extremely proactive” role in increasing voter registration across the country.
However, he said the time duration between a person submitting the voter registration form and getting the voter card should be shortened. Modi also suggested that citizens be kept updated on the status of their applications.