On Tuesday, the Election Commission, expressing its discontent over Doordarshan’s coverage, wrote to the information and broadcasting ministry that “the airtime coverage given to various political parties is disproportionate and not balanced”.
The EC’s remarks came after the Congress party submitted a memorandum on the 1st of April alleging misuse of official media by the BJP. The EC, then, asked the ministry to “direct” DD News “to desist from extending any preferential or disproportionate airtime coverage in favour of any party” and to ensure “balanced coverage” of all political parties.
As it turns out, on the 4th of April, chief executive officer of Prasar Bharti, which runs Doordarshan, Shashi Shekhar Vempati had written to the Congress requesting an interview with Rahul Gandhi. According to our sources, Congress hasn’t yet responded to the request. Sources also confirmed that the request for the interview to Rahul Gandhi was sent by Doordarshan before the Election Commission sent the directive to the channel.
In its letter, Vempati said, “As the biggest exercise of democracy, the Lok Sabha elections, has been announced, it will be a great privilege for DD News and RSTV to conduct a joint interview with the Congress president Shri Rahul Gandhi, so that the principal opposition party may put forth its views to the citizens of India.” An hour-long interview was requested at a time and place of the Congress President’s choosing. However, the party hasn’t responded to it yet.
Thus, we have a situation where the Election Commission has chastised Doordarshan for its coverage despite the fact that it has attempted to offer fair coverage of events by offering to interview the Congress President. Moreover, DD News has directed its state units to seek interviews with all Chief Ministers and senior leaders of all political parties as part of its election coverage. The complaint on the basis of which the EC has rebuked Doordarshan was made by a party which has not responded to Doordarshan’s request for an interview with its president for a week.
While the Election Commission is busy regulating Bollywood movies and chastising Doordarshan, rampant polling malpractice has been in the two constituencies in Bengal which have gone to polls in the first phase of the elections. The EC has failed spectacularly in ensuring a conducive atmosphere for free and fair elections in the two constituencies where widespread violence has been reported and polling officers are accused of colluding with the TMC.
Amidst all of this, it is being claimed that officers of the State Election Commission have disappeared into thin air. Therefore, while the EC is busy pointing fingers at others, it begs the question, who will bell the cat?
Update: Both the ruling party as well as the principal opposition (in this case the Congress) were requested by Doordarshan for a joint interview by Rajya Sabha TV (RSTV) and Doordarshan. At the time of this report, only the PMO has responded positively and a schedule for the interview is currently being worked out. The Congress is yet to respond.