Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu today claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Uttarakhand's Kedarnath shrine on Saturday was a violation of the poll code, and asked the Election Commission to ensure that "continuous telecast of his private activities" is stopped with immediate effect.
In a letter to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, he also accused PM Modi of "supporting and promoting" illegal betting through his remarks at a press conference on Friday. The event in question was the Prime Minister's first in five years.
The letter alleged that PM Modi's visit to Uttarakhand's Kedarnath shrine amounted to influencing voters in a manner that violated rules put forth by the Election Commission. "Narendra Modi went to Badrinath and Kedarnath on an official visit on 18th and 19th May 2019, and all his activities are being displayed and continuously telecast by all television news channels. This is a clear violation of the Model Code of Conduct because it (amounts to) indirect canvassing, influencing voters through a person's religious beliefs and public display of his personal religious activities," it read.
Mr Naidu also expressed concerns about the continuous telecast of the Prime Minister indulging in activities such as meditating in caves and walking around "in various costumes" affecting the level playing field in the ongoing polls.
The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress had earlier complained to the election body about PM Modi's "widely televised" visit to Kedarnath shrine, and his subsequent address to those present at the spot.
In his letter, the Telugu Desam Party leader also condemned the manner in which PM Modi had opened Friday's press conference with a reference to a Mumbai-based betting racket. "Shri Narendra Modi, in his first-ever press conference in the last five years, mentioned the Mumbai satta market where people faced huge losses as they betted big on a particular party during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. It is alarming that the Prime Minister of a democratic country made a mention of an illegal occupation, subsequently supporting and promoting the unlawful business in the country," he said.
Mr Naidu ended the letter by expressing "disappointment" with the Election Commission for not registering the dissent of one of its members, Ashok Lavasa, in giving clean chits to PM Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah over four speeches that many in the opposition believed were in violation of the poll code. "The callousness showed by the Election Commission in not considering the minority's decision does not befit the stature of the Election Commission's office. This clearly depicts an erosion of institutional integrity," he said.
Many opposition parties, including the Trinamool Congress and the Congress, have accused the Election Commission of going easy on PM Modi and Mr Shah during poll campaigning.
(With inputs from PTI)