Business Standard

An election like never before: When EC's neutrality came into question

Congress President Rahul Gandhi took potshots at the Election Commission on May 19 for alledgedly going soft on 'Narendra Modi and his gang'

BS Web Team 

Left: Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora has denied rift, saying commission members are not clones of each other, Right: Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa has opted out of meetings over clean chit given to the prime minister's speeches
Left: Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora has denied rift, saying commission members are not clones of each other, Right: Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa has opted out of meetings over clean chit given to the prime minister's speeches

Former President Pranab Mukherjee said on Monday that the election commmission should not be criticised for its work and that it has done a good job in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections. The remarks came two days after Congress President Rahul Gandhi took potshots at the Election Commission for alledgedly going soft on "Narendra Modi and his gang''.

Business Standard takes a look at ten instances when the EC found itself amid a controversy during the Lok Sabha elections 2019.

1) Black box at Narendra Modi rally

The Election Commission found itself amid a controversy when a 1996 batch IAS officer was transferred for probing an alledged 'black box' unloaded from PM Narendra Modi's helicopter just before an election rally in Karnataka's Chitradurga.

2) Modi biopic

The Election Commission had on April 10 stayed the release of a biopic on Narendra Modi, a day ahead of its original scheduled release date on April 11, which coincided with the commencement first phase of the Lok Sabha elections in the country. The poll commission said the film disturbs the level-playing field.

Later, the makers of the film approached the Supreme Court, the apex court directed the EC to watch the film and reconsider its decision.

A total of seven officials watched a special screening and submitted its report to the top court, which then rejected a plea challenging the EC's decision and said it will not interfere in the matter.

3) Clean chits to Modi on poll code 'violations'

The Election Commission disposed off several complaints against Narendra Modi for alleged violation of the Model Code of Conduct during the Lok Sabha elections. He was accused of leveraging the Balakot air strikes and using the exploits of Wing Commander Abhinandan to further his electoral interest.

4) Pragya Thakur's remarks

The EC had barred Pragya Thakur, BJP's Lok Sabha candidate for the Bhopal constituency, from campaigning for three days for violating the Model Code of Conduct for stirring up communal feelings. The poll watchdog had said in its order that the decision came in light of her comments against slain IPS officer Hemant Karkare and on the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

Last week, Thakur said Mahatma Gandhi's killer Nathuram Godse was a patriot, following which Narendra Modi held his first press conference in five years. The poll panel had taken cognisance of Pragya's remarks after a host of political parties condemned her remark.

5) Clean chit to Amit Shah:

The poll panel did not find BJP President Amit Shah in violation of the Model Code of Conduct when he said, "Rahul Gandhi is contesting in such a place where it is impossible to say when a procession is taken out, whether it is a procession in India or Pakistan," during a speech in Nagpur.

6) Lavasa's recusal

One of the election commissioners, Ashok Lavasa, recused himself from a meeting on poll code violation after he found himself in a minority five times when he dissented against clean chits to Modi and Shah's alledged violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

7) NaMo TV

NaMo TV, a channel floated by the BJP to broadcast election related items, stirred up controversy when opposition parties complained to the poll panel that it violated the MCC. The Election Commission ruled that NaMo TV cannot display 'election matter' during the silence period before a phase of polling began.

8) Modi's Kedarnath visit

The Election Commission granted Modi permission to visit Kedarnath, considered a holy place by Hindus, ahead of the last phase of Lok Sabha elections. The decision was criticised across the board by political parties as they believed Modi's visit to the sacred site could sway voters.

9) Modi's army comment by Adityanath

The Election Commission let Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath off the hook with a notice after the saffron leader referred to the Indian Army as 'Modiji ki sena' (Modi's army). This was a second alledged case of poll code violation by the UP CM after he was barred from campaigning for a couple of days following an earlier remark.

10) SC questioned delays

According to an Indian Express report on Monday, election commissioner Ashok Lavasa sought prompt action from his peers after the Supreme Court pulled up the poll panel for delays in dealing with cases of hate speech during election campaigning.

First Published: Tue, May 21 2019. 12:17 IST
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