The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has filed a complaint with the Election Commission of India (ECI) accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of violating the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) by posting morphed images and videos of Delhi chief minister and AAP’s star campaigner Arvind Kejriwal on social media platforms.
At the Centre of the complaint is one video that the BJP Delhi’s official Facebook and X accounts posted on November 5. In it, the BJP mocks Kejriwal for getting slapped in rallies, making false promises to voters, the elaborate renovations of his official residence amongst other things.
“The BJP trying to create a parody is a mean and ugly attempt to tarnish the image of the Hon’ble Chief Minister and AAP without any basis whatsoever amounting to public abuse, denigration and vilification of the Hon’ble Chief Minister,” the AAP’s complaint said.
The AAP has complained that the BJP has repeatedly posted many such similarly morphed images and videos of Kejriwal and other AAP members. The party pointed out that Kejriwal is a star campaigner in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and the videos and images in question are “most disparaging” and “dangerously misleading and libelous”.
The party has cited section 123(4) (corrupt practices in relation to publication of false statements) of the Representation of People Act, 1951, sections 499 (defamation) and 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and clauses of the model code of conduct including clause 4.4.2(B)(v) that restrains parties from criticising other parties on the basis of “unverified allegations or on distortions”.
The complaint, signed by AAP’s national secretary Pankaj Kumar Gupta, has called on the EC “to ensure that no entity can unduly influence elections through the dissemination of false narratives, libelous and defamatory statements, or by making irresponsible remarks that may incite religious sentiments. Swift and decisive action is crucial to uphold the integrity of the electoral process and prevent the potential manipulation of public opinion.”
AAP had filed the complaint on November 16, the day Kejriwal, as the national convenor, was supposed to respond to EC’s show cause notice against the AAP for their tweets dated November 8 and 9 against Modi. HT has learnt that the AAP has sought time until November 20 to reply to the show cause notice.
EC had sent a show cause notice to AAP after receiving a complaint from the BJP on November 10. To be sure, the AAP had posted its video three days after the BJP’s post, but the BJP complained first. Thus far, the EC has not acted on the AAP’s complaint.
In its show cause notice to the AAP, EC had instructed the party to “explain” two tweets against Modi posted from AAP’s official handle. In one tweet, the AAP had mocked Modi accusing him of being businessman Gautam Adani’s puppet while the second tweet showed a photograph of Modi against Adani in the background with the line (translated as): “I, Narendra Modi, do not work for the public but for my owner.”
Priyanka Gandhi files her response
Meanwhile, in response to the show cause notice issued by EC for violating the model code of conduct earlier this week, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has filed her response, HT has learnt. The deadline for Vadra was also the evening of November 16.
Vadra was issued a notice for making “unverified and false statements” about PM Modi during a public rally in Sanwer, Madhya Pradesh. She had said, in Hindi, “Mr Modi, what did you do with BHEL through which we got employment, through which the nation progressed? Mr Modi, tell us whom did you give it to? Why did you give it to your big industrialist friends?”
The November 14 show cause notice against Vadra was the second such notice to be issued in the last three weeks. It is understood that Vadra had replied to the previous notice, issued on October 26, within the stipulated time frame.
In the notices to Vadra and the AAP, EC had reiterated its May 2023 directive regarding the “plummeting level of public discourse during campaigning”.
The model code of conduct has been in effect since October 9 in the states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Telangana due to the Assembly elections.
HT reached out to the Congress and the AAP but did not receive a response.