New Delhi: In a major slip-up that is likely to trigger a controversy, a BJP ally revealed the purported dates for the announcement of the schedule of the upcoming Lok Sabha election, information that should only be with the Election Commission.
Pashupati Kumar Paras, the Bihar chief of Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party, announced at a press conference in Patna on Sunday that a mega rally of NDA partners will be held on March 3 that Prime Minister Narendra Modi too would attend.
“We are organising this rally on March 3 because the elections will be notified (by the Election Commission) sometime between March 6 and 10,” Paras was quoted as saying by the Telegraph.
When asked by reporters how he knew about the dates in advance, the Bihar minister was cagey in response.
“I have no specific information. I’m saying this on the basis of media reports. Also, in 2014, the elections were notified in March and so this time too they should be notified around the same dates,” he said in his defence, the daily said.
The model code of conduct kicks in once the poll schedule are announced, and hence, knowing the date in advance can be advantageous for the ruling party as it can time its sops closer to the elections.
Controversy has surrounded the announcement of dates for election to assemblies in the last year and a half.
When the dates for the elections to five states in December had to be announced, the poll panel had initially scheduled a press conference for noon, but it was postponed by three hours.
The Congress alleged that it was to avoid imposing the code of conduct before Prime Minister Narendra Modi finished his election campaign in Ajmer, Rajasthan. Modi was scheduled to address the rally at around 1 pm, though he did not eventually announce any big SOPs for the voters there.
There were allegations of leaks also when the dates for the Karnataka assembly elections were announced in March last year. Fifteen minutes before the announcement, the May 12 poll date was revealed in a tweet by the BJP's Amit Malviya. It soon emerged that the Congress's social media in-charge in Karnataka had put out a similar tweet at the same time.
Allegations of collusion were also hurled at the Election Commission in October 2017, when it delayed the poll schedule for Gujarat while announcing it for Himachal Pradesh.
PM Modi used the extra fortnight to inaugurate several projects in Gujarat while the state government had announced a slew of sops.
The then chief election commissioner AK Joti rubbished charges of collusion and said the announcement was delayed because the the Gujarat government had sought the window to provide flood relief.