ECI issues ‘directions’ to BJP and Congress following the responses from both the parties over MCC violations

ECI in its directions said that the defences offered by the parties are not tenable


On May 22, the Election Commission of India (ECI) sent two directives, one each to BJP national president J.P. Nadda and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, asking them to be “dutiful towards special responsibility of Star Campaigners of the party and issue formal notes to them to maintain decorum in their utterances.” The latest directives were issued after it received responses of the parties following the MCC notices that were issued to BJP and Congress on April 25 on the complaints submitted by the rival parties against each other. In the direction issued to BJP, the Commission has asked the party to refrain from campaigning along “religious/ communal lines” or to make statements “which may which may divide the society”. Similarly, it directed Congress to avoid making “potentially divisive statements” regarding the socio-economic composition of Defence forces, and statements which give false impression “that the Constitution of India may be abolished or sold”. Notably, the directives did not name the speaker(s) of the impugned speech (es) as the ECI kept identifying the speaker(s) as “a star campaigner of your party”, “another Star Campaigner”, “yet another Star Campaigner”, “the same Star Campaigner”, and “many Star Campaigners”.

In a general observation common to both the directives, the Commission observed that “Elections are a process when a political parties, not only contest to win, but also avails the opportunity to present themselves in their ideal best for the voting community to experience, emulate and build hopes on. The second part constitutes the more precious heritage of Indian elections and our electoral democracy and this should not be allowed to be weakened by anyone, including your party”. The ECI also cautioned that the utterances of the concerned politicians “follow patterns and create narratives which can be damaging beyond the MCC period.”

Moreover, the ECI has found the responses given by the parties untenable and said that the violations continue unabated even after the formal notices were issued to the parties on April 25 this year. As a corrective measure it has asked the party presidents to ensure compliance with the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (RPA), and ECI Advisory.

Directions to BJP

The Commission’s directive to BJP notes that the response sent by BJP on May 13 to the ECI with regard to the MCC violation notice maintains that the statements of its Star Campaigners relied on “facts” to expose the malintent of INC citing the statements made by INC campaigners about institutional survey, Sam Pitroda’s inheritance tax remark, and other video links. The direction cites at least 15 statements and remarks made by BJP’s campaigners attacking INC and opposition INDIA alliance covering the thematic issues of Ram Temple, Hindu religion, SC/ST quotas and reservation, Muslim appeasement, and the allegations made against INC, accusing the latter of supporting Pakistan and receiving funding from terror groups.

The directive highlighted several impugned statements of the Star Campaigners of the ruling party, for example, it cited various complaints made by the INC:

  1. “Vide INC complaint dated 26.04.2024 it has been alleged that a star campaigner of your party made following statement: ‘Yeh aapki sampati ka baantne ka kaam kisko karenge, Bangladeshi ghuspaithion ko, Rohingyas ko, jo videshi aaye hai ghuspaithiyein, usko kar denge yeh log. Kya yeh Hindustan isko swikar kar paayega kya.’”
  2. “INC filed a complaint dated 06.05.2024 against another Star Campaigner inter-alia alleging that: He with the malafide attempt to incite and provoke the general public against the INC labelled a particular religious community as ‘terrorists’ and falsely accused that the INC was promoting the interests of such religious communities to the exclusion of the general public; and fomenting social tensions within the society by creating a divide based on religion, caste and classes.”
  3. “Another complaint dated 06.05.2024 was filed by INC alleging that your party’s star campaigner: “falsely claimed that the Congress would grant reservation to a particular religious community over the SC, ST and OBC communities by changing the Constitution”.
  4. “Vide INC complaint dated 12.05.2024, it has been alleged that yet another Star Campaigner has allegedly delivered a statement: “with the intention of (i) invoking religious sentiments of general public; (ii) misleading the voters with their allegations that the Indian National Congress (INC) did not support the construction of the Ram Mandir and that the INC was deriving its funding from terrorist organizations.”
  5. “The INC, vide complaint dated 15.05.2024 complained that a Star Campaigner made the following statement: ‘Aur isiliye jab chunav aa gaye hain Modi ji ka virod do hi log kar rahe hain, ek jo ram drohi hain aur dusra jo Pakistan ka samarthak hain.’”

The ECI observed that the party has made a generic assertion that its Star Campaigners never made statements not based on facts or targeting specific individuals, without denying the fact that such statements were made in their public campaign speeches. Summarising the position of BJP, the ECI directive notes that “your reply invokes a unilateral drawing of inferences and interpretations of alleged previous statements of opposite party’s Star Campaigners. However, such response ought not to raise or, aggravate anxiousness amongst citizens/electors on the basis of ascribable identity by use of suggestive expressions…” The Commission also observed that as a ruling party, it has an extra responsibility to conform with the provisions of the MCC. As the ECI found BJP’s response “not tenable”, it directed the BJP party president JP Nadda to direct all its star campaigners to refrain from making statements prohibited under MCC and which may divide the society on religious or communal lines. The Commission said that is expects both the parties to “fully align the campaign methods to the practical aspects of the composite and sensitive fabric of India.”

Directions to Congress

The directive issued to Congress says that the party’s defence of the statements made by its Star Campaigners relies on “3 broad axis”, namely, (i) denial of fact as alleged per se; (ii) arguing that the statements are not violative of MCC as they are mere rebuttal of previous accusations or in some cases de-contextualised and (iii) MCC provides a special footing to opposition party and therefore the statements have to be adjudged on a different footing. Notably, the Indian National Congress (INC) had responded to the ECI on May 6, following the notice issued to it on 25 April this year on BJP’s complaint.

In its latest direction to INC, the ECI observed that the party’s response to its April notice highlighted the “repeated” and “egregious violations” by the ruling BJP and defended its own statements as being taken out of context. Taking into consideration the role of opposition party, the directive reads, “the MCC already takes into account the unevenness of power and authority between Opposition and the Ruling Party…however does not allow unlimited extra space to the opposition, bordering on an immunity from MCC provisions.”

The Election Commission cited 5 speeches that were alleged to be violative of the MCC, these include speeches made by INC’s Star Campaigners accusing BJP of promoting “one nation, one language”, attacking the PM over the Agnipath Scheme, alleging that BJP has an intention to change the Constitution, and suggesting that BJP discriminates against Adivasi’s, Dalits, and poor.

Against the statement made by a Star Campaigner of INC that BJP might change the Constitution, the directive observed that the party president is aware that the Members of Parliament take oath to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India and therefore, “making statements that anyone can either abolish or sell or tear apart the Constitution of India etc. is alleged to be instilling fear in the mind of voters about an uncertain future and an attempt to spread anarchy in the country.” Furthermore, on the critique of the Agnipath Scheme, it said that the MCC has a specific prohibition against use of armed forces for campaigning purposes.

As the ECI did not find the party’s response tenable, it asked INC president to direct all its Star Campaigners to refrain from “giving statements which give false impression that the Constitution of India may be abolished or sold” as well as to desist “from indulging in any political propaganda involving activities of the Defence forces and not to make potentially divisive statements regarding socio-economic composition of Defence forces”.  It also asked the opposition party to strictly follow the MCC, RPA and ECI advisory, as well as to inform its Star Campaigners regarding the same.

Notably, in both the directives, ECI observed that the speeches are alleged to not only violate the provisions of MCC but also borderlines corrupt practice under section 123(4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which prohibits candidates from making false statements affecting the candidature of other candidate(s) in the fray.


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