In the run-up to Assembly elections in four states and a Union Territory, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has asked the Centre to remove Prime Minister Narendra Modi's picture from coronavirus vaccine certificates being offered to beneficiaries in these states. The ECI direction comes a week after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's party complained to the apex election body, saying the BJP and the Prime Minister were indulging in blatant misuse of the official machinery.
Trinamool Congress had said the prime minister's picture on COVID-19 vaccination certificates violated the model code of conduct, following which the Election Commission has asked the health ministry to remove it, news agency PTI reported. The ECI has referred to certain provisions of the model code of conduct, which prohibits advertisement at the cost of the public exchequer.
The direction to the ministry does not mention Prime Minister Narendra Modi's name but says the ministry has to follow the model code of conduct in letter and spirit. The government may have used filters to hide the PM's picture from the certificate, which could take some time to fully implement these directions on certificates given to those who take the COVID-19 vaccine in poll-bound West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry.
The Mamata Banerjee-led party had approached the poll panel this week, citing violation of the model code as PM Modi's image reflected on vaccination certificates generated through the Co-Win platform. As per the clause 7 of the ECI model code of conduct the "issue of advertisement at the cost of public exchequer... regarding achievements with a view to furthering the prospects of the party in power shall be scrupulously avoided".
Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam, and Puducherry will go to the polls in April-May. The polls in these states are being held after the Bihar assembly elections last year, in which BJP, along with JDU, emerged victorious. The model code of conduct had come into force in these states on February 26.