Everything That Is Wrong With Saket Gokhale's Complaint Against Narendra Modi

Everything That Is Wrong With Saket Gokhale's Complaint Against Narendra Modi

With the Election Commission giving exceptions to the PM to use a helicopter for political purposes, Gokhale's allegations seem to hold no ground. Thus, there appears to be no chance for PM Modi to face disqualification over the alleged violation of the model code of conduct.

Vinay MishraUpdated: Monday, March 18, 2024, 10:26 AM IST
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Following the Election Commission of India's (ECI) announcement of the polling dates for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, accompanied by a stern warning to political parties and leaders regarding the strict enforcement of the model code of conduct, Trinamool Congress (TMC) Rajya Sabha Member Saket Gokhale complained with the ECI on Monday. Gokhale alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi breached the code of conduct by allegedly using an Air Force helicopter to participate in a political rally.


After the TMC MP complained to the ECI, the biggest question arises: did PM Modi really violate the conduct? Gokhale, in his social media post, mentioned that former PM Indira Gandhi faced disqualification for similar violations. So, is there any chance that PM Modi may also face disqualification, or did Saket Gokhale compare apples to oranges?

What did Saket Gokhale say in the complaint to the ECI?

Gokhale's complaint letter to ECI reads, "On 17.03.2024, the Hon'ble PM addressed an election rally in Assembly Constituency 96- Chilakaluripet in Palnadu District, Andhra Pradesh. For this rally, which was part of election campaigning for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hon'ble PM arrived at the rally venue in an Indian Air Force helicopter with tail number ZP 5236 on the evening of 17.03.2024."

In the letter, Gokhale also mentioned EC's rule on the use of official vehicles and helicopters laid down in April 2014 addressed to Chief Electoral Officers of all States/UTs which says, "The Commission directs that, subject to exceptions mentioned herein, there shall be a total and absolute ban on the use of official vehicles for campaigning, electioneering, or election-related travel during elections. There shall be a total prohibition on the use of any vehicles such as helicopters, aircraft (except as regulated by the Commission's order on the subject), cars, jeeps, automobiles, boats, hovercrafts, etc., belonging to the (i) Central Government, (ii) State Government/UT Administration, (iii) Public Undertakings of the Central and State Governments, (iv) Joint Sector Undertakings of the Central and State Governments, (v) Local Bodies, (vi) Marketing Boards, (vii) Co-operative Societies, (viii) Autonomous District Councils, or any other body in which public funds, however small a portion of the total, are invested for any purpose connected with the elections, by any political party, candidate, or any other person connected with the election (except officials performing any election-related official duty)."

Citing the guidelines, Gokhale said that the use of an official Indian Air Force helicopter by the PM solely to address an election rally is a clear violation of the aforementioned guidelines.

Here's what the latest Election Body Instruction Compendium says about government-owned helicopter usage:

It is mentioned on page number 105 under the subheading of "Use of Aircraft / Helicopter by Political Parties" that "during the election process, there is a complete ban on the use of aircraft by political functionaries, including the Chief Minister and Ministers. The only exemption is for the Prime Minister in office."

It seems like Gokhale wrote to the Election Commission in haste without reading the latest guidelines issued by the poll body. With the Election Commission giving exceptions to the PM to use a helicopter for political purposes, Gokhale's allegations seem to hold no ground. Thus, there appears to be no chance for PM Modi to face disqualification over the alleged violation of the model code of conduct.

Screenshot from EC's Compendium of Instructions on Model Code of Conduct, 2024.

Screenshot from EC's Compendium of Instructions on Model Code of Conduct, 2024. |

Indira Gandhi's disqualification

In 1975, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, faced disqualification due to electoral malpractices. The Allahabad High Court found her guilty of using government resources for her election campaign. This included the misuse of government machinery and personnel during the 1971 Lok Sabha elections. The court declared her election invalid and barred her from holding any public office for six years. However, she returned to power in 1980 after winning the general elections.

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