I&B ministry allegedly forced Election Commission to provide NOC for broadcasting PM Modi’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’

NEW DELHI: Taking cue from widespread objections in the past, the Central government has sought a ‘no-objection’ from the Election Commission for broadcasting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s monthly radio address, ‘Mann ki Baat’, ahead of a series of state assembly elections in the country.
Joint secretary of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry Mihir Kumar Singh has written to the EC, seeking its no objection to air the PM’s radio programme ahead of the upcoming polls in four states and a UT.

Sources say seeking the EC’s clearance is a ‘voluntary move’ and is meant to prevent unnecessary objections from opposition parties over the PM’s programme in the wake of elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry.

The EC is likely to give a no-objection to the programme this week, sources informed.

Before the Bihar elections last year, the Congress, JD(U) and the RJD had approached the EC, seeking a temporary ban on the programme, till the polls were in progress.

The leaders from the opposition parties had reasoned that the radio programme would give the BJP an ‘unfair advantage’ in the elections, and that it could ‘influence’ the poll results. They had claimed the programme was a ‘misuse’ of the official machinery since AIR, that airs the PM’s programme, is a public broadcaster.

AIR and Doordarshan come under the domain of Prasar Bharati, which is a statutory, autonomous body, funded by the I&B ministry.
The EC, however, had refused to impose a blanket ban on the programme. However, it had promised action if its content was found to be in violation of the model code of conduct that was in effect at that time in Bihar.

The EC had said that the broadcast would be allowed with a rider that the PM cannot say anything which may be construed as inducement to voters or as having any impact in the election-bound state of Bihar where the model code of conduct was in force between September 9 and November 12, 2015.

Subsequently, Modi had also praised the EC in his radio speech, congratulating the election watchdog for an increase in voter turnout and for turning to a facilitator from a mere regulator.

The Congress had made a similar complaint against the programme to the EC during the Haryana assembly polls.
Modi’s Mann ki Baat was launched in 2014 keeping in mind the rural population of the country who do not have access to television. The PM’s focuses on current topics and social issues such as burning crop remains in Punjab, sanitation and most recently school exams and their preparations, among others.

With agencies (PTI/ANI/IANS)