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It’s undue publicity, remove Modi photo from Covid certificates, Trinamool writes to EC

Citing poll code of conduct, Trinamool Congress says use of Modi's photo amounts to 'exploiting the post and powers' of the prime minister of the country.

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New Delhi: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) has written to the Election Commission urging it stop Prime Minister Narendra Modi from putting his photo in digital Covid-19 vaccination certificates, calling it an “unfair advantage and undue publicity at taxpayer’s cost”.

The party is locking horns with the Modi-led BJP in the eight-phase assembly elections in West Bengal starting 27 March.

Election dates in the state were announced last week, which means that the model code of conduct for elections is currently in force.

In a letter to the EC Tuesday, TMC Parliamentary Party leader in Rajya Sabha, Derek O’Brien wrote, “We insist that you stop the PM from taking unfair advantages and undue publicity at taxpayer’s cost during the conduct of elections.” ThePrint has accessed a copy of the letter.

“His (PM) action clearly violates the provisions of part VII (Party in Power) of the Model Code of Conduct that clearly states: “The party in power whether at the Centre or in the State or States concerned, shall ensure that no cause is given for any complaint that it has used its official position for the purposes of its election campaign and in particular…(4) Issue of advertisement at the cost of public exchequer in the newspapers and other media”.”

Also read: PM Modi likely to address over 20 rallies and Amit Shah 50 in poll-bound Bengal

‘Exploiting his post’

On Tuesday, ThePrint had reported how Modi’s photo in vaccination certificates has caused heartburn, especially in non-BJP ruled states. The stakes obviously are higher in the poll-bound states.

In his letter, O’Brien wrote, “By placing his photograph, name and message on the Provisional certificates issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, he is not only exploiting his post and powers but also stealing commendable credit from the producers of Covid vaccines.”

The TMC leader added, “He (PM) is blatantly appropriating the dues of the vast army selfless doctors, nurses and health service workers. After elections have been declared, the PM is debarred from publicising his name and claiming credit in this manner through (the) government’s Co-WIN platform of vaccination.”

ThePrint reached O’Brien over telephone for a comment on his letter, but he refused.

However, his party spokesperson and Lok Sabha MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar told ThePrint, “This is clearly violative of the code of conduct. It is all the more reprehensible that in a situation of a pandemic when people are in a medical emergency, such pro-BJP propaganda is happening in a matter as important as vaccinations.”

She added, “The man who made a mess of pre-Covid prep, because he and (Home Minister Amit) Shah wanted to overturn an elected government in Madhya Pradesh, now breaks Election Commission code and indulges in cheap politics over vaccination.”

Earlier, the BJP’s national spokesperson R.P. Singh had justified the move to ThePrint saying, “He is the PM of the country, so it is in that capacity his photo is there. The way he handled the coronavirus pandemic, the way India became a leading example for the rest of the world — whether it is in distribution of vaccine, PPE kits or other medicines — we should be proud of the work he has done.”

Also read: BJP to stop cow smuggling in Bengal if voted to power, says Yogi Adityanath at Malda rally


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