Giving a Damn to EC’s Directions, BJP Appeals for Vote Invoking Religion Displaying Ram Idol as ‘Power of One Vote’


TCN News 

New Delhi: A day before the first phase of polling (April 19) of the general elections 2024, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is heading the government in the Centre, appealed for votes invoking religion. From its official handle, the saffron party shared an image of Lord Ram’s idol in Ayodhya on microblogging website X (formerly Twitter) and referred to it as the “power” of one vote for it.

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It’s a clear case of violation of the model code of conduct — which prohibits using caste or communal feelings for securing votes. The Representation of the People (RP) Act, 1951 governs elections in India. Section 123(3) of the legislation, which addresses appeals based on religion, states that using religion as a means of obtaining votes is a “corrupt practice”.

The apparent silence of the Election Commission of India (ECI), a poll watchdog, on the widespread use of religion and references to the Ram temple in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya by the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 2024 Lok Sabha election campaign is raising concerns.

The tweet in question came during the 48-hour period of silence mandated by Section 126 of the RP Act that prohibits candidates and political parties from going ahead with their campaigns in areas where voters are expected to cast their votes.

The BJP’s official handle tweeted the image from “surya tilak” ceremony, which was held on Ram Navami in the Ram temple on April 17, coupled with the statement, “the power of one vote”.

Showing the idol wearing a surya tilak, the post reads, “Them: your one vote to the BJP will not make a difference”. The “surya tilak” on the idol is then indicated in the post as “the difference”.

A team from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), an independent body of the Department of Science and Technology, carried out the “surya tilak” project, as per a statement released by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

“Under the surya tilak project, sunlight was brought on the forehead of Sri Ram Lalla at 12 noon on the occasion of Sri Ram Navami in the Chaitra month. IIA team carried out the calculation of the sun position, design and optimisation of the optical system, and performed the integration & alignment at the site,” said the press release.

At least 200 scientists from across the country had protested against involvement of their fraternity in the project by writing an open letter in 2022.

The tweet was sent out a day before, when BJP’s Telangana wing posted a video on X that appeared to make fun of Muslims. Captioned “A Battle of Billions of Hindus since time immemorial. A story of Sacrifice, Valor, Worship & Victory. The Saga of Ayodhya Ram Mandir”, the video post featured Pepe the frog — which is frequently used by White nationalists in the United States.

The video in the tweet begins with Pepe the frog sobbing and then shows pictures of the Babri Masjid being demolished, the communal riots that followed and finally the Supreme Court’s 2019 ruling that cleared the way for the temple’s construction, which Modi inaugurated by organising a mega event of the Pran Prathishtha in January.

The alt-right in India used the cartoon; they copied Western alt-right symbols and modified them to fit the Indian context.

The ECI in its March 1 advisory had asked all political parties to elevate election campaigning to “issue-based” debate and to conduct themselves with the utmost decency and restraint in public.

As per the recommendation, in compliance with the model code of conduct, no appeal can be made on the voter’s caste or religious sentiments.

“No activity that may exacerbate already-existing differences, foster hatred toward one another or inflame tensions between various castes, communities, religious groups or linguistic groups shall be attempted,” stated the advisory sent out to various political parties, which are participating in the electoral process.

In addition, it said that “references which ridicule the relations between devotee and deity or suggestions of divine censure shall not be made” and that “no temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras or any places of worship are to be used for election propaganda or electioneering”.