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Election Commission to Look Into 'Urgency' of PM Modi's Address to Nation Fortnight Before Lok Sabha Polls

The poll panel would also seek a transcript of the Prime Minister’s speech, sources in the Election Commission said.


Updated:March 28, 2019, 7:43 AM IST
Election Commission to Look Into 'Urgency' of PM Modi's Address to Nation Fortnight Before Lok Sabha Polls
PM Modi addressing the nation on Wednesday.

New Delhi: The Election Commission on Wednesday set up a committee under a deputy election commissioner to examine whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address to the nation on the anti-satellite missile test violated the Model Code of Conduct, which is in force for Lok Sabha polls.

An Election Commission spokesperson said the poll panel has directed a committee of officers to "examine the matter immediately in the light of the model code of conduct".

Officials said the decision was taken after the opposition claimed that the PM's address violated the poll code as he highlighted an "achievement" of the government and the issue was not necessarily related to national security.

Though there was no official word on the deadline given to the committee to submit its report, the sources said the task will be completed at the earliest. The panel would go through the video and the transcript of the address.

The timing of the test, conducted at 11.16am on Wednesday, and the announcement by PM Modi, an hour later, has come under question as it was done just a fortnight before the elections begin on April 11. Several opposition parties have alleged that it was only done for political mileage.

There are indications that the Election Commission was taken by surprise with the announcement.

The PM addressed the nation after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security Wednesday morning which was apparently apprised of the development.

"The matter related to the address of the Prime Minister to the Nation on electronic media today afternoon has been brought to the notice of the Election Commission of India. The Commission has directed a Committee of Officers to examine the matter immediately in the light of Model Code of Conduct," an EC spokesperson tweeted Wednesday night.

Deputy Election Commissioner in charge of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) Division Sandeep Saxena will head the panel. The panel will have Dhirendra Ojha, DG Media; K F Wilfred, Sr. Principal Secretary (Law); and N N Butolia, Principal Secretary (MCC), as members, the sources said.

The panel will submit its report after examining the prime minister's speech as soon as it receives all relevant information and material, they said.

In his address, Prime Minister Modi on Wednesday announced that India had demonstrated anti-satellite missile capability by shooting down a live satellite, describing it as a rare achievement that puts the country in an exclusive club of space superpowers.

Sources in the poll panel had earlier in the day told news agency PTI that issues related to national security and disaster management do not fall under the ambit of the model code of conduct.

"The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had met. Decisions taken by it and issues such as disaster management do not fall under the model code of conduct and require no prior nod," a functionary said.

The government has justified the timing of Mission Shakti by saying that the test was done after acquiring the “required degree of confidence to ensure its success”.

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