Politics before Performance: India’s latest accomplishment under scrutiny

March 27′ 2019 marked a significant day for India especially in contemporary times when countries are raging to transform as a superpower. After successfully embracing the land, water and air, it is now the space that countries want to register their supremacy.

India, not lagging behind has joined the elite group of nations that have claimed to become the space superpower. Following the USA, Russia and China, India became the fourth nation capable of destroying a satellite in the space.

The Prime Minister’s address to the nation yesterday declaring India’s feat over the Space raised the national sentiments. The countrymen lauded the efforts of the scientists and the government for taking the project in Mission Mode.

The completion of ‘Mission Shakti’, which entailed the launch of a ballistic missile from the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Island launch complex off the Odisha coast and its successful hitting of a pre-determined defunct satellite occupying a Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) at a distance of 300 km took just three minutes.

It was the Prime Minister who made the announcement to the people of India, in a live nation-wide address. He congratulated the scientists of DRDO and others who had been a part of the mission’s success and highlighted the indigenous nature of the achievement

However, the announcement came under scrutiny when political parties accused the announcement that India has become a space superpower is politically motivated at a time when the Model Code of Conduct is in continuation.

Political parties questions the timing of the announcement

Soon after the PM’s address, CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accused the Prime Minister of breaching the Model Code of Conduct.

CPM was the first party to submit a representation to CEC Sunil Arora. It sought to know how the PM could make such an announcement in the middle of elections when he himself is a candidate.

Terming it a clear violation of the model code, the party asked whether the EC was informed of the address and if the commission permitted it. West Bengal CM and Trinamool’s Mamata Banerjee too said she took up the matter with the EC.

“Today’s announcement is yet another limitless drama and publicity-mongering by Modi desperately trying to reap political benefits at the time of election (in April-May),” Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal state said on Twitter.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala also called PM Modi’s announcement of India being a space superpower is a “gross violation of the code of conduct.”

What does the model code of conduct say?

As the election approaches, the Election Commission of India announces the Model Code of Conduct which the political parties have to oblige.

Part VII of the Model Code of Conduct deals with the do’s and do not’s for the ruling parties and point 4 of Part VII deals with misuse of official mass media by the ruling party for publicising their achievements during the election period.

It reads:

“Issue of advertisement at the cost of public exchequer in the newspapers and other media and the misuse of official mass media during the election period for partisan coverage of political news and publicity regarding achievements with a view to furthering the prospects of the party in power shall be scrupulously avoided”.

EC to examine for any violation

After several political parties alleged that PM Modi had violated the code, the Election Commission of India formed a panel of officers to examine if Prime Minister Narendra Modi violated the model code of conduct by addressing the nation to announce ‘Mission Shakti.’

The committee will be chaired by deputy election commissioner Sandeep Saxena.

The Election Commission said in a statement later that the matter had been brought to its notice.

“The Commission has directed a Committee of Officers to examine the matter immediately in the light of Model Code of Conduct”

“The matter related to the address of the Prime Minister to the nation on electronic media this afternoon has been brought to the notice of the ECI. The commission has directed a committee of officers to examine the matter immediately in the light of the model code of conduct,” an EC spokesperson said.

The commission will look closely at precedents, national security concerns, preparation leading to the address and its political/electoral impact or benefit for the ruling party, before deciding on any course of action.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in a press conference briefed that the security measure and its announcement was taken with all precautions keeping in mind.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman: I would like to state here, BJP is taking legal advice. We’re taking every possible advice so that institutions & individuals who are part of this conspiracy to defame BJP, we will take them to the court. We will take action on them legally pic.twitter.com/eTzA0bWzA1

— ANI (@ANI) March 27, 2019

While protocol mandates EC clearance before all major government announcements, fund releases and launches, there is an understanding to clear defence-related issues, including appointments and procurements, on a priority and without much screening.

At a time when India needs to strengthen its security systems all around, this rare accomplishment of being a superpower should have been perceived as par excellence and not be taken as a political shot. As India progresses towards a sound security built-up and climbs the ladders in the power race, the country will be able to counter any attack or breach from terrorists across the borders. But for that, countrymen, in a united manner should applause this achievement and not question its time of occurrence.

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