Election Commission Asks Centre To Stop Sending ‘Viksit Bharat’ Messages

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The Commission has also asked the IT ministry to submit a compliance report.

New Delhi:

Taking a strong step to ensure compliance with the model code of conduct, the Election Commission has directed the Union government to “immediately halt” Viksit Bharat messages being sent over WhatsApp.

The poll panel has also instructed the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to immediately submit a compliance report. 

Thursday’s action by the Election Commission comes after it received several complaints about the model code being violated by MeitY sending the messages. In response, the ministry had informed the panel that the messages, which contain a letter from the Prime Minister, were sent out on March 15 – before the model code of conduct (MCC)  came into force – and that some of them could have been delivered with a delay because of “system architecture and network limitations”. 

The dates for the Lok Sabha elections – which will be held in seven phases between April 19 and June 1 – were announced by the Election Commission on March 16, and the model code of conduct came into effect immediately after that.  

Highlighting the various policies and schemes of the government, the message sent by the ministry also asked for feedback and suggestions from the recipients. The handle from which the messages were sent – which has a green tick – describes itself as: “Viksit Bharat Sampark is an ongoing initiative of the Government of India for evaluation of the flagship schemes and improvement in its implementation and delivery.” It also states MeitY’s address and has a link to its website. 

The EC’s latest action comes on the heels of directions to the chief electoral officer of Karnataka to take action against Union Minister Shobha Karandlaje, based on the DMK’s complaint, over her alleged derogatory remarks against people from Tamil Nadu. The panel had also ordered the cabinet secretary, chief secretaries of all states, and chief electoral offficers to remove all unauthorised political advertisements. 

The actions are being seen in the context of Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar’s statement while announcing the election dates that the poll panel will do everything in its power to combat four ‘Ms’ – muscle, money, misinformation and MCC violations – that can come in the way of free-and-fair elections.

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