Former Chief Election Commissioner Dr SY Quraishi on Wednesday has criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi' speech on India's Anti Satellite Test capability (ASAT), saying it was not in conformity with ethics and spirit of the model code of conduct for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
In an exclusive interview to Outlook, Quraishi said "ethically and in spirit" the Prime Minister's speech was avoidable.
On March 27, Narendra Modi's spoke about the successful ASAT test that demonstrated India's ability to shoot down a live satellite on a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) of 300 kilometres. It proved India were among the world’s advanced space powers because it could target spy satellites and safeguard its assets in space.
Although opposition leaders accused Narendra Modi for violation of model code of conduct, indulging in theatrics and playing politics over achievements of scientists, the Election Commission gave the Prime Minister a clean chit.
Quraishi, who served as the 17th Chief Election Commissioner of India between 2010 and 2012 questioned the timing of the speech.
"If we didn't do in past seven years, we could have waited seven weeks, what was the hurry? That's the question we always ask. Therefore in spirit, perhaps, it was not a desirable thing," said Quraishi.
The former CEC then went on to share an anecdote on former Goa Chief Minister late Manohar Parrikar, drawing analogies between the two incidents.
During a by-election in Goa, the Election Commission came to know that a candidate for the bypolls was being made a minister in the Parrikar cabinet. Such a move would have given this particular candidate an advantage over others. The EC decided to take up the matter with the Chief Minister himself.
"Initially he protested, he said making a minister any time is his constitutional right," says Quraishi.
Quraishi tried to reason with Parrikar and appealed to him to delay the appointment till the bypolls were over, keeping in mind the "spirit" of the model code.
After initial protests, Parrikar came out with a very "statesman" like statement, says Quraishi, and said "I sacrifice my constitutional right to the moral authority of the model code"
"I think that was the right spirit, I wish that spirit was followed in this case as well," said Quraishi.
Elections to 17th Lok Sabha will be held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19. The model code of conduct came into effect on March 10 and will remain in force till May 23, 2019.
Developed initially in Kerala in the late 1960s, the model code gradually grew to become an essential part of the election process in India. It is primarily aimed at giving a level playing field to all the contesting candidates.
The code is also aimed to act as a deterrent to parties and candidates who may indulge in ulterior activities to influence the polls.