Open letter to the Chief Election Commission by Dr. EAS Sarma, former Union Secretary, Ministry of Power – “I request the ECI to treat the implicit cost of the sea-plane ride as a part of the election expense of BJP in the ongoing Gujarat election campaign and take necessary action under the Representation of the People Act. This is necessary in order to send a strong message that the ECI would not encourage expensive election campaigning in whatever manner it manifests itself.”
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14-40-4/1 Gokhale Road
Email: [email protected]
Shri A K Joti
Chief Election Commissioner
Election Commission of India
Shri P K Sinha
Shri Rajiv Gauba
Union Home Secretary
Dear S/Shri Joti/ Sinha/ Gauba,
Subject:- Violation of Representation of the People Act and Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) in Gujarat elections
I enclose a Business Standard report dated 14-12-2017 (“Gujarat: Did Modi’s seaplane fly from Karachi to escort him to Dharoi?”) which suggests that
i. During his travel in Gujarat in connection with BJP’s election campaign, Shri Narendra Modi accepted an air ride from Ahmedabad to Dharoyi and back on a sea-plane on 12-12-2017. The sea-plane was an aircraft (Kodiak 100) owned by a foreign company, namely, Utah-based Quest Aircraft Company, operated by a Japanese plane-maker. Apparently, the aircraft is also owned by the Bank of Utah with registration in the US.
ii. The contents of the news report suggest that the Prime minister’s aerial ride was intended to bypass the lack of police permission for a road show in Gujarat. It appears that the journey undertaken on the sea-plane became a part and parcel of the election campaign for BJP as it did have a visible impact on the people. The news report states that “BJP went a little overboard in highlighting Modi’s last rally for Gujarat polls. BJP’s twitter handle posted ‘Modi becomes first passenger of India’s first ever seaplane!’” This leads to the inescapable inference that the sea-plane ride was intended to be a part of the election campaign.
iii. In other words, the expenditure incurred on the sea-plane ride, whether paid for or not, will have to be deemed to be a part of the election expenses for BJP’s Gujarat election campaign, as envisaged in the Representation of the People Act and it therefore needs to be reckoned as such by the Election Commission of India (ECI)
iv. The news report estimates the cost of the sea-plane ride to be Rs 40 lakhs. Since an aircraft owned by a foreign company was involved, this amounts to a outright violation of the FCRA. FCRA prohibits political parties from accepting donations, direct or indirect, from a foreign source.
v. If either the Central govt agencies or the State govt agencies have paid for the expenditure incurred on the sea-plane ride, the ECI should take cognizance of the same and take such action that is appropriate against all those responsible for diverting public funds for private electioneering.
I request the ECI to treat the implicit cost of the sea-plane ride as a part of the election expense of BJP in the ongoing Gujarat election campaign and take necessary action under the Representation of the People Act. This is necessary in order to send a strong message that the ECI would not encourage expensive election campaigning in whatever manner it manifests itself.
Further, I request the Union Home Ministry to proceed against those who have violated the FCRA. Acceptance of donations from foreign sources, in whatever manner they flow in, is unacceptable from the point of view of long-term national security.
If you fail to take the necessary action, I will be constrained to seek judicial intervention under the Representation of the People Act as well as under FCRA.
E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to GOI