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Election Commission Buried Under Tide Of Complaints, Bias Accusations

Ahead of a general election that starts on Thursday, the Election Commission of India (ECI) says it is swamped with hundreds of thousands of such questions and accusations of violation of election rules, known as the model code of conduct. Many are coming via ever-expanding social media.

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Did Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi break election rules by addressing the nation on an anti-satellite test recently? Is it right to have a channel dedicated to the leader? Can the country’s armed forces be called “Modi’s soldiers”? 

Ahead of a general election that starts on Thursday, the Election Commission of India (ECI) says it is swamped with hundreds of thousands of such questions and accusations of violation of election rules, known as the model code of conduct. Many are coming via ever-expanding social media.

“The commission will only move when there is sufficient material,” said Sandeep Saxena, a deputy election commissioner, adding that social media and mobile phones often tell people of things immediately, which it takes the panel time to learn.

“We normally ask our own field functionaries,” he told Reuters. “It takes 12 hours or so to establish, only then we go for action.”

Opposition parties have accused the panel of being biased in favour of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which they say gives Modi an unfair advantage in the election. There is even a threat to jail commission officials if Modi is ousted.

The BJP denies special treatment from the panel, an autonomous constitutional body tasked with the smooth conduct of the world’s biggest democratic exercise with as many as 900 million eligible voters.

The panel, which has a staff of 300 at its headquarters in New Delhi, and more in the states, has said it is impartial and acting against the guilty irrespective of party affiliation.

But the model code of conduct has become a joke, said Tarun Kumar, an official of the main opposition Congress party, because NaMO TV, a recently launched television channel that broadcasts Modi’s rallies live, as well as promotional material for the ruling party, was still on air, despite complaints.

“Everyday I think that the Election Commission has sunk to its lowest, only to be proved wrong next day!” said Yogendra Yadav, a political activist, and former pollster.


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