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Did ‘Chopper Checking’ Row Reveal True Colours Of Political Parties?

19 April 2019

Debashish Maharana

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Bhubaneswar: Allegations over violation of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) during election seasons generally galore and hog the headlines while this time helicopter checking by the Election Commission (EC)’s flying squad has been the big breaking as well as most debatable news across the country.

Two videos depicting senior BJP leader and Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan opposing vehemently vis a vis BJD supremo and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik cooperating coolly have not only sparked off raging debate, but has also exposed the true colours of the two virtually belligerent political parties.

This is simply tip of the iceberg while the most significant is the suspension of an IAS officer slapped by the EC on Wednesday (April 17) for allegedly checking Prime Minister Narendra Modi's helicopter in Odisha's Sambalpur on Tuesday (April 16).

Karnataka cadre IAS officer Mohammed Mohsin has been suspended with immediate effect for allegedly acting contrary to the instructions of the EC as it has been reasoned out that the PM is SPG protectee.

Such a controversy has raised several eyebrows across the country. Several have pointed out that the PM’s official vehicle is ‘not exempt’ from being searched as former Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Qureshi has also argued that the ‘law is equal for everybody’.

Qureshi (the 17th CEC) has mentioned on his Twitter handle, “PM’s chopper raid incident is a missed opportunity to restore EC's Image.”

“This raid could have been used to demonstrate that the law is equal for everybody. In one stroke, the intense criticism against them both would have come crumbling down,” he has suggested.

He has further explained that the Prime Minister has been under the public scanner for repeatedly violating the model code of conduct and Election Commission has repeatedly overlooked it.

On the other hand, Qureshi has lauded Odisha CM by tweeting, “In contrast, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, because of his extremely dignified conduct during a similar raid on his chopper, in front of his eyes, has come out with his stature enhanced. This is the statesmanlike conduct we need from our leaders. Salute Mr Patnaik!”

Reacting to such an incident, senior journalist and poll pundit Dilip Bisoi commented, “Those who are in power need to set example and be an ideal for others. An election is held in a neutral atmosphere. Hence, it may be Chief Minister or Minister of any State or Union Minister or Prime Minister, they should come down to a level-playing field. Then only the election could be free and fair.”

Elucidating he stated, “When the helicopter of Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan was checked, he turned red and started shouting in a bid to resist the security personnel. But, when the helicopter of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was checked by the Election Commission’s flying squad, he fully cooperated and thus enhanced the dignity of his post as well as set an idealistic example.”

He further elucidated, “When the helicopter of the Prime Minister was checked at Sambalpur, the Election Commission has suspended a higher rank officer. Here the question arises: Is the Prime Minister above law during election? Prime Minister Narendra Modi ought to have set an example by welcoming the checking of his helicopter. It would have enhanced his image as well as his party’s.”

“The suspension of the senior officer will create a bad precedence for election,” the political analyst remarked, adding, “The example Naveen Babu set forth is historic and remain as a specimen of ideal gesture in future. This will definitely teach a lesson to those in power and influential.”

Another senior journalist and political observer Prabhukalyan Mohapatra opined, “The Prime Minister, Chief Minister and other persons in powerful posts should cooperate such checking process. It sends a positive message to the society and especially to the grassroots level. All are equal before the law. The problem in India is that the law is discriminatory for the rich and influential while it different for the general public or the poor.”

He argued, “The agency authorized for checking will certainly comply so. Be it Prime Minister or Chief Minister or President or Chief Justice. Need to cooperate with process. The deplorable development has indeed hampered the image of the Prime Minister or the BJP. In this respect, I first of all welcome the officer who dared to check as it is his prime duty.”

The senior scribe remarked, “The Union Minister hurled abuses during checking which is unwarranted and unexpected. The suspension implies the narrowness of the Prime Minister, not his broad-mindedness. This differs from person to person. On the other hand, Naveen Patnaik cooperated the checking process. This is the lustre of a personality.”   

“They (BJP) are in a bid to hide certain garbage, they are resisting the checking process. If one is transparent and clean, there is no problem in cooperating. If one isn’t cooperating, it implies there is something fishy. The public well understand this,” remarked the political expert.

Meanwhile, Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) today filed a petition in this regard with the Chief Electoral Officer here.

In his media reactions, OPCC spokesperson Shibanand Ray said, “The Prime Minister should be debarred from contesting the election. Is the Prime Minister, being a contesting candidate, above than the Election Commission during the poll process? If the Election Commission is judicious, we demand scrapping of the nomination of the Prime Minister as a contesting candidate. As punishment is given to the poll observer, the Prime Minister should also be punished. We also demand action against Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.”

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Dilip Bisoi, Senior Journalist

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Prabhukalyan Mohapatra, Senior Journalist

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Shibanand Ray, Spokesperson, PCC, Odisha

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Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik Cooperating Copter Checking

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Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan Quarrelling Over Copter Checking