Residents in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana on Wednesday woke up to advertisements by political parties, just a day before the two states go to polls. Incidentally, simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and to the state Assembly will be held in Andhra on Thursday.
In Telangana, the BJP published advertisements appealing for votes in Deccan Chronicle, Andhra Jyothy and Eenadu newspapers. In Andhra Pradesh, Sakshi newspaper owned by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy published advertisements of YSRCP, while Eenadu and Andhra Jyothy published advertisements of TDP. This despite campaigning having ended in the two states on Tuesday evening. Forty-eight hours before the polling is regarded as the ‘silent period’ with the Election Commission prohibiting any sort of election campaign and public political gatherings.
However, it appears that none of these political parties have violated the model code of conduct, as the restrictions are limited to the electronic medium.
Collage of Sakshi and Andhra Jyothy Andhra edition
Speaking to TNM, Andhra Pradesh CEO, Gopal Krishna Dwivedi said, “These ads are not a violation. Newspapers are exempt. Only public meetings and ads on electronic media 48 hours before the elections are a violation.”
For publishing advertisements on newspapers 48 hours before polls, political parties are mandated to seek special permission from the Model Code of Conduct Committee.
Dwivedi clarified that the parties which published the ads had sought prior permission from them, thereby not violating the MCC.
Section 126 of People's Representation Act of 1950 prohibits publishing of political advertisements on electronic medium 48 hours before the elections, the exemption of the word ‘Print’ allows political parties to publish advertisements without any hindrance.
According to Section 126 of PRA, “Prohibition of public meetings during period of forty-eight hours ending with hour fixed for conclusion of poll.—(1) No person shall—
(a) convene, hold or attend, join or address any public meeting or procession in connection with an election; or
(b) display to the public any election matter by means of cinematograph, television or other similar apparatus; or
(c) propagate any election matter to the public by holding, or by arranging the holding of, any musical concert or any theatrical performance or any other entertainment or amusement with a view to attracting the members of the public thereto, in any polling area during the period of forty-eight hours ending with the fixed for the conclusion of the poll for any election in the polling area.”
Former Chief Election Commissioner, N Gopalaswami points out that the absence of the word ‘print’ has allowed political parties to use a legal loophole to publish such ads, which in turn undermine the spirit of free and fair elections. Speaking to TNM, the former CEC said, “The Election Commission has appealed for an amendment seeking Print also to be brought under Section 126 many times, but the Parliament never approved it.”