Political parties cannot release their poll manifestos in the 48 hours leading up to the voting day, the Election Commission has ruled. Sources said that the measure - brought about through an amendment to the Model Code of Conduct - is in keeping with Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act-1951, which provides for "election silence" during this period.
The BJP had released its manifesto on voting day during the first phase of the previous Lok Sabha elections in 2014. Although the Congress approached the Election Commission with claims that releasing the manifesto at the eleventh hour was bound to influence voters, no action was taken because the Model Code of Conduct provided no information on the timing of manifesto release.
The Lok Sabha elections will be held in seven phases between April 11 and May 19, and the results will be declared on May 23.
The poll body also asked political leaders to not give media interviews during this period, among other directives. "During the silence period, star campaigners and other political leaders should refrain from addressing the media by way of press conferences or giving interviews on election matters," news agency IANS quoted it as saying in an advisory.
A controversy had broken out in 2017, when Congress president Rahul Gandhi appeared for interviews with regional television channels just a day ahead of the Gujarat assembly elections. Facing criticism from the BJP, the Congress hit back by pointing out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had organised a roadshow a day before polling.
The Election Commission wants to ensure that there's no such controversy this time round. "In a multi-phased election, the silence period of the last 48 hours may be on in certain constituencies while campaign is ongoing in other constituencies. In such event, there should not be any direct or indirect reference amounting to soliciting support for parties or candidates in the constituencies observing the silence period," IANS quoted it as saying.
Section 126 of the Representation of People Act aims to provide people with a "period of tranquility" before voting day, the poll body said in the advisory, adding that nothing should be allowed to disturb that.
(With inputs from Agencies)
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