It has just been a day since the Lok Sabha elections kicked off, and our timelines have already been blessed with plenty of WTF moments—there was the Andhra Pradesh candidate who smashed an EVM and got himself arrested, and the mystery of the disappearing indelible ink, to name a couple. And then is the much more serious issue of violations of the model code of conduct (MCC), like the magical NaMo TV that likes to call itself both an entertainment and news channel.
The Election Commission of India website has details of all MCC violations so far, with Jammu and Kashmir topping the list with around 65 incidents being investigated so far, followed by Kerala (32). But the surprise entrant is third on the list— Lakshadweep, India’s smallest constituency with 54,266 voters and one Lok Sabha seat, has already managed to get 26 cases for itself.
A beautiful island isn’t exactly what comes to mind when you think of vicious political scrummaging, so it is perhaps fitting that at least one of the reports is for putting up posters on a government tree. Meanwhile, the NCP president in Kavaratti, the capital of Lakshadweep, has so little to worry about that he filed a written complaint against a couple of labourers in the local development corporation for taking part in political activities.
What about the poster on the tree, you ask?
A complaint by the cVIGIL enforcement team notes that there were Congress posters on a government coconut tree on Kadmat Island, also known as Cardamom Island. The 9.3km-long coral island is a marine protected area, about 67km from Kavaratti.
After the complaint about the INC posters on a government coconut tree, the nodal officer of the MCC, with help from team members, removed the posters, the report notes.
The enforcement team also had a complaint about Congress posters on government properties, and the Election Commission expressed its displeasure.
Not to be one-upped, the NCP also plastered the islands with posters, including in a government well on Kadmat Island, which drew the ire of the cVIGIL team. Then Congress workers meanwhile put up posters near the jetty on the island. These were also found to be in violation of the MCC, and the two parties were cautioned about where they put up posters.
Things quickly escalated though. The cVIGIL team also filed a complaint about Congress and NCP party workers fighting in front of the Congress office on Kavaratti island. The MCC team found posters and NCP symbols on nearby buildings and—what else?—coconut trees, and a number of people involved in a scuffle. Things got so out of hand that two people had to be treated for their injuries. No coconut trees were reported to be harmed in the proceedings.
The NCP has been particularly active in the tiny archipelago, and its candidates have raised complaints about government officials being involved in political canvassing. P. Muhsin, the Secretary General of the party, also raised a complaint that some government employees visited the jail to… take political advantage. Muhsin also wanted a Congress functionary who is not a voter in Lakshadweep deported because he submitted the expenditure statement for the Congress candidate. This particular case was decided and disposed off by the nodal officer.
There have also been complaints about government officials being active in political discussions on social media, and complaints about Congress workers holding roadshows past 7pm. Unfortunately for people who value quiet time on tropical islands, the recommendation here was to drop the complaint. Meanwhile, there was a complaint against the NCP for displaying flags bigger than the maximum size permitted.
In an election season where campaign points come down to communal polarization, the question of who is Indian enough, and a maddening blitz of fake news and manipulation, it would actually be nice if all the rest of the country was worried about was which coconut trees to put up posters on.