Congress, allies seek suspension of ‘Mann Ki Baat’ till Bihar polls

New Delhi, Sep 16 (IANS) The Congress, JD-U and the RJD on Wednesday approached the Election Commission to seek suspension of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio address to the nation till the assembly elections in Bihar are over.

The Bharatiya Janata Party dismissed the demand, while the poll panel said it was examining the matter.

“We have submitted a petition to the Election Commission of India (EC) seeking suspension of Modi’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme till November 8, when elections get over in Bihar, since it would be violative of the model code of conduct,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said after submitting a memorandum to the poll panel.

“By using government machinery like All India Radio and Doordarshan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to misuse his office,” he added.

The delegation comprised Janata Dal-United leaders K.C. Tyagi and Pawan Varma, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Manoj Jha and senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi.

“The prime minister is a habitual speech maker who doesn’t even miss the opportunity to attack opposition parties from foreign soil. It’s obvious that he may use the platform of ‘Mann Ki Baat’ and not desist from speaking on something political,” Tyagi said, terming it “misuse of government machinery and not permissible”.

Jha said that one cannot be given the freedom to misuse government machinery.

“We believe in the good judgement of the Election Commission. They will listen to us and will take action appropriately,” he told reporters.

The BJP said that it only showed the opposition’s “frustration”.

“It shows the frustration of Congress. Earlier they used to say no one hears what prime minister says in his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ and now they are worried.

“The issue which Congress has raised is totally irrelevant today. It’s an effort by them to keep alive their relevance as people of the country have rejected them. This programme is a non political and inspires people to work on societal issues,” ” BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli told IANS.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission said that it has not yet decided on the complaint by the Congress, JD-U and RJD.

“The commission has not yet decided anything. As and when the commission takes any decision, it will be uploaded on its website,” a senior poll panel official told IANS.

On a similar complaint ahead of the Maharashtra and Haryana assembly polls, the EC, after going through the content of the programme, had said that it did not violate the model code of conduct.

Modi’s next ‘Mann Ki Baat’ is slated for September 20 – the 12th edition of the prime minister sharing his thoughts on different issues. The first edition was aired on October 3 last year.

As per the rules, when the model code of conduct is in force, broadcast on Doordarshan or All India Radio by political parties can only be done as per the slots allotted to them through a draw of lots by Prasar Bharti in consultation with the EC.

The five-phase Bihar polls begin on October 12 and conclude on November 5. Counting will take place on November 8.

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