The Election Commission yesterday ordered producers to stop streaming a web series on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, weeks after it banned a Bollywood film and clamped down on a TV channel devoted to him.
The poll watchdog - an autonomous body tasked with overseeing the world’s biggest democratic exercise - said the online web series was in violation of its ‘model code of conduct’ rules.
Under election regulations, the publication of any content which is deemed as campaign material or propaganda is not allowed during the voting period.
Any political advertising must also be approved by the election authorities so that all spending is accounted for.
India’s mammoth six-week vote began on April 11 and will run until May 19, with results due on May 23.
When it ordered a halt to the streaming of the online series, the commission said any biopic material which has the “potential to disturb the level playing field” should not be displayed until after the polls have closed.
The series, titled Modi: Journey of a Common Man is produced by Eros Now and traces Modi’s journey from childhood to becoming the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy.
Earlier this month, the commission banned the release of a flattering movie PM Narendra Modi about the prime minister until after voting finishes.
Days later it ordered a clampdown on NaMo TV, a channel showing 24-hour programmes on Modi rallies, speeches, and even rap songs and dance routines devoted to the leader.
The Election Commission said NaMo TV had to submit all of its content for approval.
Modi, 68, is seeking a tough re-election after storming to power in 2014.
He often uses his humble upbringing as a tea-seller’s son to strike a chord with millions of poor voters.
The Election Commission - often accused of being ineffective - has been flooded with complaints since campaigning started in March.
Last week, the Supreme Court told it to act tough on complaints of poll violations by political leaders.
Meanwhile Modi launched a blistering attack on the Congress.
He said the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stood for ‘desh bhakti’, (love for country) while the opposition party stood for ‘vote bhakti’ (love for votes) because of which the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government refused to retaliate after terrorists attacked Mumbai in November 2008.
Speaking in an aggressive manner at an election rally in Patna, Modi reminded the people that Congress leaders also insulted the martyrs of the 2008 Batla House encounter in New Delhi because of their ‘vote bhakti’.
“The country is divided by ‘vote bhakti’ and ‘desh bhakti’.I t was ‘vote bhakti’ that prevented the Congress from acting tough on Pakistan,” Modi said.
The prime minister said it was due to ‘vote bhakti’ that the then Congress government did not give permission to act against Pakistan after the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai.
“It was known to all that the terrorists had come from Pakistan, which was behind the terror attack in Mumbai. The army had sought permission to retaliate, but the Congress-led government refused to do anything,” he said.
Modi said that the BJP believed in ‘desh bhakti’ politics due to which the armed forces could successfully conduct surgical strikes after the Uri terror attack and air strike after the Pulwama terror strike.
He also attacked the Congress by raking up the Balakot air strike.
“How can the opposition question the success of the Balakot air strike? Their approach is guided by ‘vote bhakti’,” he said.
“They (opposition) have stopped asking for a body count or questioning the air strike because of your (people’s) response in the first two phases of elections. They have already lost ground. They are afraid whether their remaining leaders will be there in the parliament,” Modi said.
In other election-related neds, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee took a jibe at Modi for his comments on her performance as the railway minister, and said the prime minister was “uttering lies” and making comments without cross-checking facts.
“You were again telling lies today. Are you not ashamed? You said Mamata Banerjee did nothing as the railway minister. You have not given a single train to Bengal even though you are in power for five years. You have done nothing for Bengal,” she said.
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