All in the game
In a match of football, if a player does a foul, a referee's natural instinct is expected to be a quick blow of the whistle, occasionally followed by a card as punishment for flouting the rules. The game resumes, only to pause at another foul by either team. The vigilance of a referee is good, with the position's autonomy highly respected and appreciated, yet there are instances when undetected mistakes are brought to the referee's notice by anxious players of the other team. At that point, the referee's credibility is put to test. Fair play is expected and, more often than not, practised. And the contest proceeds irrespective of the outcome with the foul treated as part of the game. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has been approached by the opposition leaders lamenting about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's misuse of position to draw political mileage while the nation edges towards the Lok Sabha polls scheduled to start on April 11. The ECI has directed a committee of officers to examine the Prime Minister's announcement of an Anti-Satellite Missile test. The news channels went into a frenzy as Modi tweeted about his plan to address the nation at noon. From a variety of apprehensions that may have been cooked in the anticipation of the announcement, it unfolded to be an achievement in the field of Science & Technology. India had entered the elite list of Space Super Powers, only the fourth nation to do so in the world. There is no doubt that this makes every Indian proud. Collectively, as a nation, we have walked quite a mile since we won our Independence back in 1947. The fact that our PM treated us to this delight on Wednesday noon, however, did not digest for some. While the achievement reverberated in the heads of many, some snapped out of it. But few criticised and demonstrated discontent over it. The outcry of opposition leaders protesting a flout of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) by Modi labelled the day which started on a high note of scientific progression. Like the anxious players on a field, they complained to ECI, in case ECI did not detect such a prominent address by the PM. Few pertinent questions spurred in social discussions amongst which one was if the achievement was necessary to be announced by the PM himself and not DRDO, that too in the middle of the election campaign with MCC in effect. PM is the head of the state and in all likelihood an appropriate person to do so. And, besides, our PM is the one who has ensured that we are in "safe hands" and hence demonstrating space prowess is only fitting for such a statesman. But, the statesman did not address the nation despite Pakistan holding his nation's Airforce pilot captive. The time and occasion of his announcement are what have left a dubious mark on the entire episode.
The MCC was developed with the intention to check and maintain fair play in the contest. Part VII of the MCC deals with regulations for the ruling parties and point four of part VII deals with misuse of official mass media by the ruling party for publicising achievements during the election period. Modi's 'Mission Shakti' speech has attracted criticism over the aforementioned norm, and to the opposition parties' credit, and facilitated scrutiny by the ECI. Similarly, the unprecedented biopic of a serving Prime Minister scheduled to release just days prior to the elections and a web show about Modi's life have both been considered as flouting of MCC in full effect during the election period. With incumbents making partisan statements and state governments complaining of the commission's double standards, MCC has been a regular feature in the election discussions this week. Will the voters care is the bottom line of the entire episode. The bitter taste in the opposition camps is the apprehension of Modi's announcement doing irreversible damage to their election prospects by his government's achievement. Modi launched his party's campaign from Uttar Pradesh citing how his administration had shown the courage to conduct a surgical strike in all spheres – land, sky and space. Though, even if he hadn't announced it himself, including it in the campaign speech the next day would also have attracted abject criticism from the opposition camps. But announcing himself is where the rivals are hurt. Sitting BJP Ministers using the party's slogan – "Namumkin ab mumkin hai" – have only rubbed salt on the opposition's wounds in what is expected to be a fine example of good governance through technological achievement. While the eyes focus on ECI and what it comes up with its examination, the PM has nevertheless, got the benefit of doubt, and all that remains to be seen is how big an impact it made on the voter.