Elections 2014: Did Modi's actions really warrant an FIR?

An FIR was filed against BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi for flashing the party's election symbol — the lotues and holding a press conference near the polling booth where he cast his vote on Tuesday.

While Modi did hold the party symbol in his hand, a question arises on the legality of advertisements on newspapers from political parties even on elections days. Should that too not be considered a violation of the code of conduct?

Narendra Modi after voting. PTI

Narendra Modi after voting. PTI

Former CEC TK Krishnamurthy said during a debate on CNN-IBN, "I agree newspaper advertisements is a debatable issue, but facts are available only with the election commission. I would say, if what Modi did amounts to campaign then it is questionable. It is open to interpretation and it is for the court to ultimately decide."

However, does the BJP accept that Modi violated the code of conduct? "Not at all," said Delhi BJP spokersperon Sambit Patra, "He did not violate any code of conduct, when he went into the polling booth he had no kamal ka nishaan. He came out and was taking a selfie. And outside it was an impromptu press conference."

Reacting to what Patra said, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, "This is downright bizarre. It is not a mere issue of model code of conduct. It is a matter of breaking the law. Any type of campaign withing 48 hours of the voting is punishable. Modi thinks that the people are eating grass. He held a presser of almost eight minutes."

"Lets be clear, you are doing a campaign within or at the precinct of the polling station. When there is voting in Vadodara you cannot campaign, and much more so near a polling booth. It is mockery of the law," he added.

Modi is a sitting chief minister who has been a part of many elections and his critics have argued that he is being brazen. "He categorically knows that we are not living in a banana republic. Is it Modi's fault that he is so popular that he is hounded by the media? It was not organised. It was an impromptu interaction," argued Patra.

Meanwhile the Congress has been complaining about BJP's every move on all election days to the EC. Is the party over reacting?

Singhvi said, "Anyone who says it is an over reaction that person does not know ABCD of law. There is an EC complainant, the complaint is recorded in an FIR. What Modi and the BJP doesn't realise is it is going to be a big thing for him. It could well become an issue in a post-election petition. We do not know the outcome of this Vadodara result. Before the electoral result you will have a prime ministerial aspirant sitting with an FIR."

Senior lawyer Dushyant Dave was of the opinion that what Modi did was not a mere press conference. "He definitely displayed the symbol of the party only to influence the voters by showing it. The question is not if people were influenced, but if he tried to influence them. The Code of conduct is violated. Across the political spectrum there is complete violation of model code of conduct because politicians do not care for institutions. The FIR is a serious matter because if he is found guilty he is liable to be disqualified," he said.

"Modi knew exactly what the law is. He doesn't care for institution and he has displayed that to the nation," said Dave.

Another senior lawyer Ranjith Kumar argued, "If some one is using a jhadu (broom) to clean an election premises, does that too count as violation?" However, he said, "Advertisements on polling days should not be published."

"Advertisements are debatable, but what Modi has done has done it as a candidate. He undoubtedly attended a public meeting. People saw the electoral symbol waved by Modi. FIR has to be filed because this is a criminal offence," said Dave.

Despite Modi's offence, is the Congress clutching on to straws, trying to attack him at every opportunity possible? There have been many other poll code violations this elections. "If he does something so consciously he should suffer the consequence of his actions and words. In other violations we have had warning, we don't have a criminal offence. Let's not forget that," said Singhvi.

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