PM speech asking voters to dedicate ballot to Balakot not violation: EC

The Election Commission, which was nudged into deciding a litany of alleged poll code violations this week, said the panel had examined the 11-page transcript of the Prime Minister’s speech at Ausa in Maharashtra’s Latur district.
In his Latur speech , Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked voters to support BJP to honour soldiers who carried out airstrikes in Pakistan’s Balakot.(PTI File Photo)
In his Latur speech , Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked voters to support BJP to honour soldiers who carried out airstrikes in Pakistan’s Balakot.(PTI File Photo)
Updated on May 02, 2019 01:00 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Amrita Madhukalya

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has cleared Prime Minister Narendra Modi of wrongdoing in yet another complaint of violation of the Model Code of Conduct filed by the Congress party.

In a statement on Wednesday, the ECI said it was of the “considered view” that Modi’s speech at Ausa in Maharashtra’s Latur district on April 9 hadn’t violated the model code, which took force after the commission announced the schedule for the seven-phase general election on March 10.

In that speech, Modi invoked the February 14 suicide car bombing in Pulwama in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force troopers were killed and the February 26 strike by the Indian Air Force on a terrorist camp run in Balakot, Pakistan, by the Jaish-e-Mohammed group that claimed responsibility for the attack..

“I want to ask my first-time voters, can your first vote be dedicated to the soldiers who conducted the Balakot air strikes, in the name of the martyrs who lost their lives in Pulwama,” Modi had said.

A spokesperson for the ECI said that it arrived at its decision on the basis of a detailed report submitted by the Maharashtra chief electoral officer (CEO) which included the transcript of the PM’s speech, running into 11 pages, and certified by the returning officer of the Osmanabad parliamentary constituency.

On Tuesday, the ECI gave a clean chit to Modi for a speech he delivered in Maharashtra’s Wardha on April 1 in which he said Kerala’s Wayanad was a seat where the “minority is majority,” in an attack aimed at Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who chose it as his second seat in addition to Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.

In all, a total of 11 complaints of poll code violations had been brought to the ECI, said an EC official. The Congress said that it had filed 10 complaints, eight against PM Modi and two against BJP president Amit Shah, and, in a petition to Supreme Court, accused the commission of sitting on those complaints. The complaint included the one related to the Wardha speech that has already been disposed of. The commission convened on Tuesday to decide on individual complaints against Modi, Shah and Gandhi.

DS Shinde, additional CEO of Maharashtra, told HT that in all there were four complaints related to Maharashtra -- Wardha, Nanded, Latur and Nagpur. “We sent reports on these particular cases to the EC as soon as complaints were filed,” said Shinde.

On Wednesday, the Congress again approached the poll body to complain about an alleged violation by PM Modi; it complained that the Prime Minister’s Office, via the policy think tank Niti Aayog, was directing states to provide information for the PM that could help him firm up his election speeches.

Senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that given the slow pace at which the commission was dealing with complaints, the party now expects the EC to complete the process only in the next nine months. “On the law of averages, if it takes 30 days to decide one, is the EC thinking of deciding the balance cases within the next 270 days? The Supreme Court has ordered the EC to act within the next 48 hours, and nine complaints remain pending,” said Singhvi.

“We might take a collective decision about challenging EC’s decisions but I must say that the EC’s clean chit to the PM is devoid of reasons in both cases,” he added.

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