NAMO TV, food packets, and Mayawati-Yogi-Modi speeches: The latest on MCC violations’ watch

Although the first phase of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections has ended, Model Code of Conduct (MCC) violations are still piling.

The EC has reviewed complaints by the AAP and Congress against NAMO TV and is now considering violations by PM Modi, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, and BSP Chief Mayawati for communal comments. The EC also looked into the “Namo Foods” packet issue in Noida.

The MCC is a set of guidelines for political parties and candidates that governs their conduct during election campaigns.

The EC has already taken action on previous violations, like BJP member Babul Supriyo airing an uncertified song in West Bengal, Rajasthan governor demeaning the position of his office, and Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut’s comments on Kanhaiya Kumar.

EC says no to NAMO TV

What happened: The AAP and Congress parties complained to the EC about NAMO TV, a television channel dedicated to Modi’s achievements and biography. These parties believed that the existence of such a channel will unfairly influence voters towards Modi and the BJP.

In a letter, the AAP wrote to the EC asking if a party can have its own TV channel with the MCC currently in force. It also asked who will monitor the channel’s contents.

The Congress also said the source of funding for NAMO TV was unclear despite it airing content 24 hours a day without advertisements.

Why is this a violation: As the source of funding for the channel is unclear, parties are concerned where the ruling party is getting the money from, because the MCC says the government cannot use any public funds for campaigning. Moreover, parties and candidates need certificates from the EC before airing content on electronic channels or political ads. The channel also runs 24 hours a day, but MCC rules say all campaigning must stop within 48 hours of polling.

Outcome: After reviewing the complaints, the EC said NAMO TV was not given the required certification by the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee. It also said the channel cannot air any political content without prior approval because it is an ad platform sponsored by a political party. The EC did not comment on the serious violation of the 48-hour silence period rule.

Yogi, Mayawati, and Modi speeches under review

What happened: In a speech at a rally in Deoband, UP, BSP Chief Mayawati allegedly made “communal” statements

She reportedly asked Muslims to back the BSP-Samajwadi Party alliance and not split their vote between the Congress and the alliance.

“I want to make an open appeal—it is not the Congress but the alliance which is fighting the BJP… The Congress wants to ensure that the alliance does not win. The Congress is trying to help the BJP in this election,” said Mayawati at the rally, according to the Economic Times.

CM Yogi Adityanath is being looked into for communal remarks he made while criticising Mayawati.

At Meerut, he said, “If the Congress, SP, and BSP have faith in Ali, then we [BJP] too have faith in Bajrangbali.”

PM Modi’s speech at Latur, Maharashtra, has also been hauled up for an MCC violation.

He recently asked first-time voters to use their ballots for the soldiers, particularly those who were martyred in the Pulwama attack and participated in the Balakot air strike.

Why is this a violation: The MCC clearly states that no candidate or political party can use communal sentiment or incite religious tension during campaigning. It also says parties cannot ask for votes on the basis of religion or defence-related matters.

Outcome: The EC issued a show-cause notice to Mayawati and Adityanath for their “communal remarks”, asking them to prove or explain why their comments are not MCC violations. It is also reviewing the District Electoral Officer (DEO) of Osmanabad’s report on PM Modi’s speech appealing for votes on behalf of the armed forces.

If the EC agrees with the DEO’s report, Modi will be the first PM in history to receive a show-cause notice for an MCC violation.

NAMO food packets for security personnel a violation?

What happened: The BSP complained when security personnel in Noida were served meals in saffron coloured packets labelled “Namo Foods”. These security personnel were on duty in the Gautam Buddh Nagar constituency on polling day.

SP Chief Akhilesh Yadav said, “Voters are turning out in large numbers to vote for #MahaParivartan, which perhaps explains this desperate move. Clearly, the only thing the BJP knows how to do is branding and marketing.”

Local police said the label bears the name of the food shop, not a political party. Police Superintendent Vaibhav Krishna also clarified that the packets were not related to any party.

“Some people are spreading wrong and politically motivated rumours. There is no official order to procure food from any particular food outlet,” said Krishna.

However, News18 reached out to the food store to find that the store had not supplied any food packets because it was closed since Wednesday evening.

Why is this a violation: The EC has banned merchandise or paraphernalia related to political parties or candidates within 200 metres of a polling booth.

Outcome: UP Chief Electoral Officer L Venkateshwarlu said this incident is not an MCC violation because the name of the shop is “Namo Foods”.

Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius

Lok Sabha Elections 2019Model Code of Conduct