EC gears up to deal with 4-Ms -- Muscle, Money, Misinformation, Model Code violations

Election commissio0n presenting the poll schedule 2024.
Election commissio0n presenting the poll schedule 2024.

New Delhi | Drone-based checking at borders, surveillance of non-chartered flights, a crackdown on misleading advertisements and fake news, and "ruthless" action against poll violence are among the EC's strategies to deal with the four-fold challenge of "muscle, money, misinformation, and Model Code violations".

Announcing the schedule of general elections for the 18th Lok Sabha, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar said the poll body is fully determined to tackle the challenges.

"The daunting challenge in conducting free and fair elections are four-fold, the four Ms: muscle, money, misinformation, and MCC (Model Code of Conduct) violations. The Election Commission is committed and has put in place measures to deal with these disruptive challenges," he said.

To tackle the first 'M' -- "Muscle" the Election Commission has issued some guidelines and regulations so that the polls can be held in a free and fair manner.

"We have issued strict directions to DMs and SPs to ensure a level playing field. Additionally, CAPF would be deployed adequately and assisted by integrated control rooms in each district. There will also be drone-based checking at the borders," the CEC said.

Asserting that violence in elections is unacceptable, Kumar said the poll panel will be "ruthless" if any violence takes place during elections.

"In the 2022-23 election cycle, cash seizure surged over 800 per cent to Rs 3,400 crore in 11 states compared to five years ago. Enforcement agencies have been directed to crack down on illicit money, liquor, drugs and freebies, and stay vigilant against disruptive methods.

"No movement of bank vehicles will be allowed after sunset and there will be surveillance and inspection of non-scheduled chartered flights. Strict vigil will be maintained over illicit online cash transfers," he said.

Warning against creating "digital memories" of any bad words during campaigning, Kumar said, "I urge parties to refrain from personal attacks and foul language. No-go areas in speeches are defined to maintain civility. Let's not cross lines in our rivalry."

"It is important because in this digital world... whatever is said once, its record will be there for 100 years. Avoid creating digital memories of bad words coming from your mouth," he said.

Noting that tackling misinformation in this digital age is complex, Kumar said the EC has put in place certain measures to ensure misinformation is nipped in the bud.

"We are proactive in debunking fake news. Originators of fake news are to be dealt with severely as per extant laws. Remember, 'verify before you amplify" is the mantra to combat fake news. Let's rely on authoritative sources to ensure accurate information prevails. Stay vigilant and help us maintain the integrity of the electoral process," he said.

The CEC warned against the use of children during campaigning and also said there will be a crackdown against misleading advertisements.

"Elections aim for key outcomes: enhanced citizen participation and zero violence. The commission strives for reduced repolls, no inducements, clear campaigns, and curbing fake narratives. Ensuring a successful electoral process is a top priority," Kumar added.

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