Gujarat polls: Narendra Modi didn't break any poll laws, Congress targeting EC is weak strategy

The Congress has perhaps gone overboard in using choicest adjectives against Election Commission (EC) and Chief Election Commissioner. Achal Kumar Jyoti. Randeep Singh Surjewala didn’t exactly honour himself and main Opposition party when he accused EC of turning into a “frontal organisation of the BJP, bandhak (hostage), kathputli (puppet)” and so on.

 Gujarat polls: Narendra Modi didnt break any poll laws, Congress targeting EC is weak strategy

Representational image.

According to the Congress, the EC, an independent, autonomous constitutional body, committed a cardinal sin by not taking action against Prime Minister Narendra Modi when his arrival at an Ahmedabad poll booth turned into a virtual road show. The Congress thinks that Modi willfully and blatantly violated Model Code of Conduct (MCC) and the EC was not taking action against him only because the commission had become too pliable and subservient to the ruling party and top executive’s office.

First consider what Modi did and then analyse whether there is any substance in the charges leveled by Congress against the prime minister and the EC. Modi, after landing at Ahmedabad airport from Mumbai, where he attended an Indian Navy function, took a car to his designated polling station at Ranip. He sat on the front seat and waved at people assembled on the road, who were waiting to catch a glimpse of him.

He then stood in queue with the common folk, awaiting his turn. After casting his vote, Modi left, walked some distance to his car, and greeted the large number of people that had gathered to see him. The crowd was boisterous and cheerful. Modi waved at them, showing indelible ink on his finger and then climbed in his car, again waving at crowd. The scene outside the polling station was indeed comparable to a mega road show, but it was no road show.

The EC can’t act against Modi for walking some distance on foot, standing in queue, standing atop footrest of his bulletproof SUV, waving to the crowd and showing ink on finger. Through that period, Modi didn’t utter a word, and didn't even make an appeal to voters to come out in large numbers and cast their ballots.

There was no road show. Modi had every right to go to his polling booth and cast his vote: As is duty of every citizen of the country. It so happened that Modi is a voter from Gujarat. The EC couldn’t have restrained Modi from voting. What Modi did was smart. He knows he is still very popular in Gujarat. Him taking the road and walking some distance on foot would make people turn up in large numbers. What his party did was leak the time he would vote and the route he'd take. Again, that's no violation of law.

A day before campaigning closed for second and final phase of polling, Modi like Rahul Gandhi, was denied permission to have road show in Ahmedabad. What troubles Congress that in era of 24X7 live TV, every news channel, be it regional and nation or digital, is putting all its energy and focus on Gujarat poll, and pictures of Modi getting rousing support from people in Ahmedabad went to every home in 93 constituencies that are going to polls. That might influence polling pattern. The Congress and the EC can’t do anything about that. Modi’s move naturally caught Congress unawares, and by the time the party realised the possible implications of an electoral swing, Modi was gone, leaving the Congress with only one option: File a complaint with the EC and complain against EC.

This isn't the first time the Congress has targeted Modi and the EC in the same breadth. On 24 April, 2014, while polling for parliamentary election was in progress in other parts of the country and in Uttar Pradesh, Modi arrived in Varanasi to file his nomination papers as a candidate from the holy city. From the Banaras Hindu University to the district collector's office, a sea of humanity flowed on to the roads of Varanasi. Modi, on an open truck, waived but did not utter a word. During parliamentary election Modi was not allowed to hold a public rally in his own constituency.

That was perhaps the biggest visual extravaganza Indian media and people had seen during election. Congress launched a blistering offensive against Modi, relentlessly complained to EC and then complained against EC. Modi had his day because there was no ban on a candidate filing nomination on any particular date in the time span provided for the purpose and in multiple phase election, such instances were bound to happen. The district magistrate cum returning officer kept Modi waiting for quite some time before he was ushered inside to file his papers.

Modi was not allowed to hold a public rally in his own constituency but again found a way out to interact with people, visiting Sankatmochan Temple in Varanasi in the run-up to the polls. A week later, Modi was, yet again at the center of controversy and Congress blasted him after he took a selfie with a black and white lotus (BJP election symbol) after voting and gave a small bite to the media. After an inquiry, nothing objectionable was found.

This time, Congress has become even more aggressive in its stance against Modi and EC. The party workers even turned up at EC headquarters in large numbers to lodge a protest. What should concern EC that anecdotal evidence suggests that more often than not, a losing party makes greater noises against poll body and its rival. So far, Congress had been claiming it was winning Gujarat election hands down.

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Updated Date: Dec 14, 2017 16:57:44 IST