Is PM Narendra Modi biopic violating Model Code of Conduct? What the protocol says

Elections are just around the corner and the Election Commission (EC) having already announced the poll dates. This has led to kick-starting of a mega electoral battle where the BJP will pitch for a re-election of the Modi government amid the Opposition’s efforts for a united fight to unseat it.

While the elections dates are announced, during that, a movie on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s life journey is set to release on April 5. The biopic will feature Vivek Oberoi in the lead role. The movie will explore the journey of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s life, starting from his humble beginnings to his rise as the Chief Minister of Gujarat before becoming the 14th Prime Minister of the nation.

In, biopics generally the characters are shown in a flattering way and as the name suggests — Narendra Modi — people are expecting the movie to show the prime minister’s life in very flattering light.

But when the EC announced the elections dates, it also said that the model code of conduct would come into immediate effect from March 4. The model code of conduct bars the government from announcing any policy move that may impact voters’ decision. The model code of conduct also bars the candidates from displaying any posters, flags, symbols or any other propaganda material which may impact voters’ decision.

While the MMC is already in effect, the release of the biopic and the web-series on Narendra Modi look like a proxy campaign in the silence period.

It goes without saying that the MMC has over the years evolved with the consensus of political parties. The MMC is not backed by law but it gives a moral standard to uphold the candidate who violates it. We have seen over the years that the political parties have exploited loopholes in the MCC and indulged in practices to ensure visibility during voting. One such instance was during 2014 Lok Sabha elections when Narendra Modi posed for news photographers and cameramen with a lotus emblem.

So the question here is, does the film violate the model code of conduct?

The film endorses BJP party leaders, and the model code of conduct (MMC) is in effect, so doesn’t it indirectly violate it? However, the film can’t be banned as it is not funded or produced by any BJP leader. So, there is no question of it being made ‘at the cost of the public exchequer’.

It is likely that the movie will use the BJP flag and symbol in some of its visuals. This will help the party to step over the rule that says ‘Advertisement materials must not –

(a) mention the party in government, by name;

(b) directly attack views or actions of others in opposition;

(c) include any party/political symbol or logo or flag;

(d) aim to influence public support for a political party / candidate for election

Recently, National Students’ Union of India – Goa, the Congress party’s student wing, urged the Election Commission to ban the release of PM Narendra Modi, alleging that the biopic is a propaganda film by the BJP to influence voters during the Lok Sabha elections, reported the Mid-Day.

With the first look — actually, nine looks — of Vivek Oberoi as Narendra Modi, apparently in various stages of his life, released recently, the same question is being asked again — is this a propaganda film to show Modi in positive light?

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