The grand alliance of the Congress, the JD(U) and the RJD approached the Election Commission Wednesday seeking suspension of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s radio address ‘Mann ki Baat’ until completion of the Bihar elections. They said “permitting” him to use the “official mass media” would give him and the BJP an “unfair advantage”.
The next episode of ‘Mann ki Baat’ is slated for broadcast on September 20.
BJP secretary Shrikant Sharma described the move as “childish” and noted that the Congress had made a similar demand during earlier assembly polls, including in Haryana, but the EC had rejected it. “They can see the writing on the wall that their defeat is certain in Bihar… They are desperate,” Sharma said.
The Congress, for its part, referred to the announcement of Syama Prasad Mookerji Rurban Mission with an outlay of Rs 5,142 crore to set up 300 rural clusters by 2019-20 across the country. Such announcements while the model code of conduct is in place, the Congress said, show the BJP’s “insecurity”. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the BJP is “scared”.
Singhvi and party colleague Randeep Surjewala, the JD(U)’s K C Tyagi and Pavan Verma, and the RJD’s Manoj Jha met the election commissioners and argued that airing of ‘Mann ki Baat’ would violate para VII (iv) of the model code that deals with “misuse of official mass media during the election period for partisan coverage of political news”.
‘Mann ki Baat’ is funded by the government and official machinery is used for it.
Surjewala said the programme is an attempt to influence the poll outcome.
Tyagi said the PM is a “habitual speech maker” who comments on opposition parties even during his visits abroad. “When you have such a bashanbaaz Prime Minister, we are sure he will in some way touch upon policies and programmes in his radio address… Till the polls get over, the PM should keep his ‘Mann ki Baat’ to himself..”
Manoj Jha said, “If the Prime Minister can use the Hindi Day forum to give a political speech, he can go to any extent.
Nobody should be allowed to use the public exchequer for the benefit of any political party.”