Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently courted yet another controversy after the Election Commission of India suspended an upright IAS officer for checking the former’s helicopter in Sambhalpur in Odisha on Tuesday. The Election Commission, which has been facing flak for being utterly compromised under the influence of Modi, wasted no time in suspending Mohammed Mohsin, a 1996 batch IAS officer, for allegedly not acting in ‘conformity’ with the order on SPG protectees.
However, experts believed that the Election Commission simply made up a non-existent provision to save Modi from embarrassment. Congress leader Ahmed Patel said, “There have been instances where during polls EC was allowed to check convoys of both current & the former Congress President, who are also SPG protectees. SPG protectees can’t be frisked personally. Why suspend an officer for checking PM’s chopper? What message is being sent ? Law is special for some? SPG protection can’t be used as a ruse to keep the PM away from scrutiny.”
The official Twitter handle of the Congress also tweeted the copies of the Election Commission order to highlight the extent that the national poll body had gone to justify Modi’s repeated poll violations. It wrote, “An official was suspended by ECI for doing his job of inspecting vehicles. The rule cited governs the use of official vehicles for campaigning. It ???? ??? exempt PM’s vehicle from being searched. What is Modi carrying in the helicopter that he doesn’t want India to see?”
The Aam Aadmi Party was more blunt on Thursday when it tweeted, “Suspension of the officer who checked PM’s helicopter. The #chowkidar lives in his own protected shell!
Is the Chowkidar trying to hide something ?”
While suspending Mohsin, the Election Commission’s order had read, “.. Commission places Sh Mohammed Mohsin, IAS, (KN-1996) under suspension with immediate effect and until further orders. The headquarters for Sh Mohammed Mohsin shall be Sambhalpur, Odisha, until further notice.”
The order that the EC referred to justify Mohsin’s suspension was dated 16 April, 2014. However, the same order by the Election Commission had banned the use of all official vehicles for the purpose of election campaign in order to ensure a level playing field. It read, (see below), “There shall be a total and absolute ban on the use of official vehicles for campaigning, electioneering or election-related travel.”
Though the order had made some exceptions for ‘Prime Minister and other political personalities, who might, in view of extremist and terrorist activities and threat to their lives, require security of a high order and whose security requirements are governed by any statutory provisions made by the Parliament or the State Legislature in this behalf.’
However, it had clarified that ‘if it has any reason to doubt that the assessment of security requirements made by authorities under the SPG Act or any other special instruction …have been manifestly or unduly excessive with the intention of promoting indirectly the electoral interests of a particular party or candidate, the commission will bring the matter to the notice of the concerned Government for immediate and appropriate corrective steps.’
Modi was in the news recently after a video emerged, showing a group of men transfer a large trunk from his helicopter to a nearby parked Toyota Innova car, which was not a part of his convoy. The Congress had suspected the trunk to be carrying black money.
Modi has clearly taken the democracy and constitutional institutions to a new low in his desperation to win the Lok Sabha polls. He may win and go into political oblivion following a defeat, but the damage caused to India’s constitutional institutions by him will leave a permanent scar on India’s identity as a successful democracy.