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How NaMo tested limits of India's outdated poll laws

india Updated: May 13, 2014 10:36 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
Narendra Modi


Narendra Modi ended the 2014 general election on Monday as he had begun it, testing the Election Commission to the limit and seeing loopholes where others saw only the law.

The man whom exit polls suggest could be India's next prime minister released a video seeking votes bang in the middle of the final day of polls, specifically mentioning Varanasi, the seat from which he sought election.

"My brothers and sisters in Kashi, the honour of Kashi is in peace, harmony and unity…we should love each other and take everybody along," he said in a video message. Kashi, or Varanasi, was among 41 seats in Monday's final phase.

Under the Representation of Peoples' Act, canvassing for votes is supposed to have ended on Saturday evening, 48 hours before the end of polling. But the law prohibits campaign activity only in poll-bound areas. Since the video message was uploaded from Ahmedabad, Modi was not covered.

Nevertheless, an angry Congress, which has been left flatfooted by the BJP in this race to dive through every loophole, lodged a complaint with the EC

"How can the channels show Modi's speech in violation of the code of conduct?" asked Congress media in-charge Ajay Maken, seeking quick action from the poll-body.

The Gujarat chief minister filed his nomination papers from Varanasi on a polling day (April 24), ensuring that it became a huge media circus that completely shadowed the rest of the day's events. He had earlier done the same thing in Vadodara, on the second polling day of the election (April 9).

And he released the party's manifesto on the first day of the election, April 7, again ensuring that the BJP was the only show in town.

He was finally booked for violating the poll law by displaying the BJP's lotus election symbol after casting his vote in Ahmedabad on April 30. But the image etched in voters' minds was his "selfie" with the lotus.

Read: Modi clicks selfie with BJP symbol, criticises Congress after voting; EC orders probe

Read: Two FIRs against Narendra Modi for holding press conference after voting

The poll law was framed in 1951, and is widely seen as outdated. Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath has said the law has its limitations and EC has been asking the government for electoral reforms.

Many argue that the law should be changed to reflect the present day realities of around the clock satellite channels and a globalised social media. Other counter saying it would result in election losing its colour.

"There would be no election related news for half of the polling period if the law banned campaign 48 hours before polling ends," said N Gopalaswami, a former chief election commissioner, saying the call on amending the law should be taken considering its adverse implications.

On Monday, Modi rubbed it in by taking a dig at the EC, saying he hoped that the poll body had deployed central forces to ensure free and peaceful polls.

Full coverage:My India My Vote