Lok Sabha Polls 2024: Examining MCC’s influence on public engagement with political parties

As per the manual on MCC, the credit for giving the idea of a model code for political parties should go to Kerala, which adopted, for the first time, ‘a code of conduct for observance for political parties during the general election to the State Legislative Assembly in February 1960.’
Lok Sabha Polls 2024: Examining MCC’s influence on public engagement with political parties

Hyderabad: On March 18, Trinamool MP Saket Gokhale filed a complaint against prime minister Narendra Modi for violating the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) during his visit to Palnadu in Andhra Pradesh by using an Indian Air Force helicopter to attend an election rally on March 17.

Subsequently, on March 20, the chief electoral officer of Chandigarh Vijay Namdeorao Zade also forwarded a complaint to the ECI against the BJP for sending out bulk WhatsApp messages in the name of ‘Viksit Bharat Sampark’ as soon as Lok Sabha elections were announced.

On March 21, the Election Commission of India directed the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to take immediate action and hold the delivery of Viksit Bharat messages over WhatsApp to users.

Moreover, the ECI also demanded a compliance report on why people are receiving the messages in bulk despite the enforcement of the Model Code of Conduct ahead of the polls. The MeitY informed the commission that the Viksit Bharat Sampark bulk messages were sent through WhatsApp users days before the MCC was enforced. Few users might have received it post-March 16, due to delayed network or systematic limitations.

Historical context

As per the manual on MCC, the credit for giving the idea of a model code for political parties should go to Kerala, which adopted, for the first time, ‘a code of conduct for observance for political parties during the general election to the State Legislative Assembly in February 1960.’ This code covered, in detail, important aspects of electioneering, like meetings and processions, speeches and slogans, posters and placards.

A similar draft code was prepared and discussed in Chennai in 1966 and West Bengal in 1967. During mid-term general elections in 1968 and 1969, the ECI evolved a set of rules for all political parties in the state. On 1 January 1974, the Election Commission issued a revised Model Code of Conduct.

From the 1991 general election, the ECI became more proactive in ensuring the observance of the Model Code. In February 2014, an additional Part VIII was added to the Model Code to regulate the issue of election manifestos by political parties.

What is Model Code of Conduct?

On March 16, the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced that the election process would take place in seven phases from April 19 to June 1 with results to be announced on June 4. With this, chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar introduced the Model Code of Conduct to ensure undisrupted and fair play amongst the parties.

The MCC includes several dos and don’ts for the leaders and party ahead of the election. It adheres to certain guidelines related to general conduct, meetings, processions, polling day, polling booths, observers, the party in power and election manifestos.

The MCC restricts political parties from using communal sentiments or communal places of worship for election campaigns.

Key features of the Model Code of Conduct, 2024:

- General conduct

No party or candidate shall include in any activity that may aggravate existing differences or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic.

There shall be no appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes. Mosques, churches, temples or other places of worship shall not be used as a forum for election propaganda.

Criticism directed towards other political parties should be restricted to an evaluation of their policies, historical performance, and initiatives, refraining from personal attacks.

Clashes between political parties must be avoided at all costs.

- Rules for meetings

Parties must inform the local police authorities of the venue and time of any meeting to enable the police to make adequate security arrangements.

Permission and license to be obtained by the police for using loudspeakers or any other facility in connection with any proposed meeting.

Carrying and burning effigies representing members of other political parties is not allowed.

- Rules for processions

Once the party or candidate has decided a place and time for a procession, the route to be followed and the time in place at which the procession will terminate there shall be no deviation.

The parties shall inform local police before moving the procession for proper navigation and eliminating undesirable events such as traffic or class with another party’s rally.

- Polling Day

All political parties and candidates should cooperate with officers on election duty to ensure peaceful and orderly polling and complete freedom to the voters without any obstruction.

Must hold their authorised badges and identity cards.

Refrain from serving or distributing liquor on polling day.

Make sure there is no unwanted crowd near the camp set up by political parties.

Parties need to make sure there is no display of posters flag symbols or any other propaganda material.

No eatables shall be served.

- Polling Booth

Excepting the voters, no one without a valid pass from the ECI shall enter the polling booths.

- Observers

The Election Commission will have observers. Candidates or their agents with complaints or problems regarding the conduct of elections can bring it to the notice of the observer.

- Party in Power

All political parties shall ensure that no cause is given for any complaint that it has used its official position for its election campaign.

- Election Manifesto

The Supreme Court in its judgment dated July 5 2013 in SLP(C) No 21455 of 2008 (S Subramaniam Balaji Vs Govt of Tamil Nadu and Others) has directed the ECI to frame guidelines with regard to the contents of election manifestos in consultation with all the recognised political parties.

Upon receiving the directions from the Supreme Court, the ECI held a meeting with the recognised national and state political parties for consultation with them on the matter and took note of their conflicting views on the matter.

The Constitution under Article 324 mandates the ECI to conduct elections inter alia to the Parliament and the State Legislatures. With due regard to the above directions of the Supreme Court and after consultation with the political parties, the commission, in the interest of free and fair elections, hereby directs political parties and candidates to release election manifestos for any election to the Parliament or State Legislatures.

How is the role of MCC different for candidates, political parties and government officials?

The MCC would ensure fair and ethical conduct while promoting transparency and accountability of the polling process.

It would ensure no political party indulges in any corrupt or unethical conduct during the elections.

MCC would set certain standards and limitations for candidates and political parties regarding the usage of campaigning material and promotional activities.

MCC would also ensure that no political party or candidate publishes any demeaning or defaming posts on social media against the party or candidate.

What happens when a political party fails to adhere to the MCC guidelines?

If any party fails to adhere to the moral code of conduct or if another party complains about the alleged breach, then ECI will issue a notice and the party will have to accept the fault and issue an apology or prove the allegations wrong.

When is the model code of conduct applicable?

The guidelines of the model code of conduct are applicable from when the election dates were announced i.e. March 16 and remain in force till the results are declared June 4.

Is the model code of conduct guidelines legally binding?

No, the moral code of conduct is not bound by law but by moral sanctions enforced by the Election Commission of India.

Related Stories

No stories found.
South Check