Super selfie lands Modi in soup, incurs EC wrath

Controversy over the BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s flaunting ‘Lotus shaped badge’ – firm between his middle-trigger fingers during a ‘press meet’ – on Wednesday triggered a political furore as Gujarat administration filed two FIRs against him on the directions of the Election Commission (EC).

The poll panel’s move had a quick rebuttal from the BJP, with Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan expressing dismay at the move. Chouhan wrote on Twitter, ‘Selective prosecution is a violation of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of law. It is a denial of justice.’ Some of his tweets, defending Modi, read: ‘Why One is singled out for a violation done by all & sundry? Persons in similar circumstances are not receiving similar treatment, Umpire ji. Can a spontaneous encircling of a VIP by the media be termed as a Press Conference? Lexicon will die of exhaustion.’

Earlier on Wednesday morning, Modi, soon after exercising his franchise at a polling station in Ahmedabad, displayed his party symbol ‘lotus’ during a ‘press meet,’ which according to EC is a violation of the poll code. Modi also clicked a selfie prominently displaying the party symbol and posted it on Twitter. After casting his vote, Modi not only asked the electorate to support the BJP but also said the Congress had already accepted defeat.

The EC acted upon a complaint lodged by Congress’ legal department secretary K C Mittal. He alleged that Modi’s speech and display of party symbol have violated the Representation of the People (RP) Act and demanded an FIR be registered against him.

Though no senior EC officials came forward to comment on the matter, the commission issued a statement, saying, ‘The Commission is of the view that by holding that meeting and also by addressing the same today when the polling is going on in the entire state of Gujarat and in different parts of the country, Narendra Modi has violated the provisions of Sections 126 (1) (a) and 126 (l) (b) of Representation of People Act, 1951.’

As per the act, public meetings are prohibited during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for conclusion of polling.  The panel also came down heavily on electronic media, ordering that all the TV channels that carried the proceedings of the meeting and displayed the election matter should also be booked under the same act ‘by filing separate complaints/FlRs against those channels’. Ironically, EC took the decision after going through the video recording of the address of Modi in Gandhinagar.

The EC claimed that the substance, tone and tenor of the address made by Modi were ‘in the nature of political speech intended and calculated to influence and affect the result of elections’. Sources said, officials of the Ahmedabad police’s crime branch would probe the matter and already the Gujarat administration has sent a compliance report to the poll panel. Earlier, on 9 April, the EC had ordered that no one can enter a polling station with caps, shawls and clothes bearing symbol of any political party.
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