NEW DELHI : Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation on Wednesday following India’s successful launch of an anti-satellite missile has become another bone of contention between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition, which has accused the Union government of flouting the model code of conduct in the run-up to the general elections.

With just two weeks to go for the first phase of polling for the 17th Lok Sabha, opposition parties are now thinking of approaching the Election Commission of India (EC) to complain against the BJP and Modi for the alleged violation of the model code.

The EC has formed a committee to examine the matter as model code of conduct has been implemented. “The matter related to the address of the Prime Minister to the Nation on electronic media today afternoon has been brought to the notice of the Election Commission of India," the EC said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Research, space management and development are a continuous process over the years. Modi, as usual, likes to take the credit for everything. Credit to those who really deserve it, our scientists and researchers. Today’s announcement is yet another limitless drama and publicity mongering by Modi desperately trying to reap political benefits at the time of an election. This is a gross violation of the model code of conduct," said West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.


While the Congress is consulting its legal advisors to decide the future course of action, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, was more vocal. CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury wrote to chief election commissioner Sunil Arora asking if the EC had been informed beforehand about the speech. “Such a mission should normally be announced to the nation and to the world by the relevant scientific authorities such as the DRDO. Instead, the Indian Prime Minister has taken the route of an address to the nation in making this announcement. This announcement comes in the midst of the ongoing election campaign, where the Prime Minister himself is a candidate. This is clearly a violation of the model code of conduct," Yechury said in his letter.

He added that the entire country would like to know why the EC permitted the achievements of Indian scientists to be politically coloured during a general election.

Defending the decision of the government, finance minister Arun Jaitley accused the opposition of raising “clerical objections". “While we are discussing national security and geopolitical situation, the opposition is raising clerical objections in Mission Shakti. It reminds of the saying when the finger points to the moon, the idiot always points to the finger."

“For a long time, our scientists desired to develop A-SAT missiles, but then the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government did not give the permission to work on the project.When Agni-V was launched in April 2012, Dr V.K. Saraswat had said in an interview that DRDO had the capacity to develop an A-SAT, but the government did not permit them," Jaitley said.

The Congress, on its part, welcomed the step and said that the project was initiated by UPA government. “Well done DRDO, extremely proud of your work," Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted, adding with sarcasm, “I would also like to wish the PM a very happy World Theatre Day."

pretika.k@livemint.com

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