NEW DELHI: With the election scene in Bihar warming up, leaders drawn from the state’s ruling alliance — JD(U), RJD and Congress — on Wednesday knocked on the doors of the Election Commission seeking suspension of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio programme till the elections were over.
They argued that the Prime Minister might use the programme, which is broadcast simultaneously on all radio and FM channels, and even Doordarshan, to influence voters. Though the Election Commission is yet to take a decision on the plea, sources indicated that there cannot be a blanket ban on ‘Mann ki Baat’.
The BJP reacted sharply to the Congress-JDU-RJD move, saying they were acting childishly and trying to stop the Prime Minister’s interaction with the public. “They had done so in the past also. It only reflects their frustration after having lost the elections. They are also unhappy that the Prime Minister is able to connect to the people like no one before,” a BJP spokesperson said adding that Modi only talks about development.
In a memorandum submitted to the poll panel, the Nitish-Lalu-Congress delegation underlined that “permitting the Prime Minister to organise the Mann Ki Baat programme would be giving a completely unfair advantage to BJP and will upset the level playing field, essential to uphold the neutrality and majesty of the electoral process.” Maintaining that the programme was essentially political with the Prime Minister giving out his thoughts on various political and governance issues,the delegation cited the Model Code of Conduct, which is presently in place for the upcoming Bihar Assembly elections, as the reason for opposing airing of ‘Mann Ki Baat’.
Emerging out of the meeting with the Election Commission, Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said, “We’ve given a petition to the EC seeking a ban on Prime Minister’s Mann ki Baat till the Bihar polls are over, as it will be a violation of the model code of conduct. We’ve requested the EC through a petition not to allow the broadcast of Mann Ki Baat on 20th September.” The delegation consisted of Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi, JD(U) general secretary K C Tyagi, its Rajya Sabha MP Pavan Verma and RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha. Singhvi said that under the model code, use of government machinery for electoral gains is prohibited. “We have put forth all the points before the Election Commission and we are hopeful that it will look into the issue,” he added.
Sources in the Election Commission, however, said, “No blanket ban can be enforced on things like Cabinet meetings and Mann ki Baat but the Commission can take cognizance if the Cabinet decision or the content of programme is in violation of the Model Code of Conduct.” Sources also pointed
out that a similar petition was filed during the Haryana Assembly elections and the poll panel did not found anything objectionable.