Indian Express

BJP’s ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ may run into Election Commission trouble

Poll officials in UP have registered case against some BJP leaders for allegedly distributing free tea in violation of the Model Code of Conduct. Tweet This
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BJP proposes to organise the third phase of 'Chai pe charcha with NaMo' across the country on March 20 when its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. (PTI) BJP proposes to organise the third phase of 'Chai pe charcha with NaMo' across the country on March 20 with its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. (PTI)

BJP’s ‘Chai pe charcha with NaMo’ programme may run into fresh trouble with Election Commission over norms which hold that any kind of allurement to voters during the poll process is not permissible as per law and the model code.

BJP proposes to organise the third phase of ‘Chai pe charcha with NaMo’ across the country on March 20 when its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi will take up queries on farmers’ issue.

The programme has already run into trouble with poll officials in Uttar Pradesh who have registered a case against some BJP leaders for alleged enticement of voters during a session in which they distributed free tea to the public in violation of the Model Code of Conduct. Poll authorities said they considered the serving of tea as enticement of voters.

“Any kind of allurement or enticement of voters during the poll process is not permissible as per law,” UP’s Chief Electoral Officer, Umesh Sinha, told PTI.

Top poll officials said that a case was registered under provisions of IPC against certain local BJP leaders at Kotwali police station at Mohammadi in Lakhimpur Kheri district.

Sources said that BJP leaders had obtained permission from UP’s Chief Electoral Officer for holding the ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ programme on March 8 at a tea stall in the area. But Sinha said that permission was granted for the event to take place as per the provisions of the Model Code. But poll officials reported that free tea was served to participants at the discussion, which was construed as bribing the voters.

But the view in Nirvachan Sadan, EC’s headquarters here,  is different with poll officials saying that serving a cup of tea worth Rs 2 cannot be termed enticement.

“The money (spent on serving tea) can be added to BJP’s  poll expenditure,” said an official.

But UP CEO Sinha holds a different view. “There is no ban on holding of such events with prior permission…but anything which is in violation of the Model Code of Conduct will not be permitted at such events.

“Appropriate action would be taken in cases of any violation,” Sinha said, adding that any kind of free distribution by political parties will be regarded as an attempt to entice voters.

Asked about the EC action, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said at a party briefing that while they would examine the matter, the poll panel should consider allowing new campaigning styles which are in sync with the changing times.

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