New Delhi: Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien said that his party will petition the Election Commission of India on photographs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi appearing on certificates issued to those who have been receiving COVID-19 vaccines in violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) currently in effect in poll-bound states.
The MCC comes into effect from the day when the election schedule is announced and remains in force until election results are declared. The ECI announced the poll schedule for assembly elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry on February 26. While elections are held from March 27 to April 29, counting in all states and the Union Territory of Puducherry will be done on May 2. So, the poll code remains in force from February 26 to May 2.
The TMC leader took to Twitter to announce his party’s decision to knock on the doors of ECI to flag the issue. “Election declared. PM photo still brazenly appearing on #COVID19 documents,” he tweeted.
— Derek O’Brien | ডেরেক ও’ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) March 2, 2021
According to Indian Express, TMC leaders will impress upon the ECI to delete the picture of the prime minister appearing at the bottom of COVID-19 vaccination certificates.
India Today has quoted another of TMC’s Rajya Sabha MPs Santanu Sen, who is also former Indian Medical Association (IMA) chief, as calling Modi’s photo a “publicity stunt”.
“PM stands for Prime Minister, but here it stands for “publicity master”. It is not just after the model code of conduct(MCC) has come into force that we are talking about this. We also raised the same issue when the Ayushman Bharat scheme was launched in 2018,” Sen said.
One of the MCC’s stipulations is that “the party in power, whether at the Centre or in the State or States concerned, shall ensure that no cause is given for any complaint that it has used its official position for the purposes of its election campaign”.
The MCC is a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission to regulate political parties and candidates prior to elections to ensure free and fair polls. It is also to ensure that parties in power do not get any undue advantage by announcing measures that could potentially influence voters. This is in keeping with Article 324 of the constitution, which gives the Election Commission the power to supervise elections to the parliament and state legislatures.
As a key battle state, West Bengal has been witnessing a high-octane campaign primarily between ruling TMC and the BJP, which has made it a matter of prestige to emerge victorious in the state. Both parties have been pulling out all stops to influence voters.
Provisional certificates issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, through its COVID-19 Vaccine Intelligence Network (Co-WIN) platform, to all those who received the vaccine, carry a prominent strip at the bottom with the photograph of Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with exhortations in English (“Together We Will Defeat Covid-19”) and Hindi (“davai bhi aur kadai bhi“, “medicines as well as rigour”).
The Wire has observed in an analysis that India appears to be the first – and so far, only – country in the world whose leader is using vaccination certificates to promote his own politics and cult of personality.