According to IANS, the ruling CPI(M) lodged a complaint with the Election Commission against the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Pema Khandu, for violating the Model Code of Conduct. The Chief Minister was accused of distributing materials and delivering a speech on religious lines. He had attended the Sradhanjali Sabha for senior monk Sasanapriya Mahathera on January 28 at the Jetaban Buddha Vihara in Machmara, Tripura. The state unit of BJP countered the allegations stating that the Khandu was on a personal visit and that he had not met any of the BJP leaders in Tripura.
Several online publications have published the same news item regarding Khandu’s visit to the Vihara, with minor changes. Northeastindia24 mentioned that Khandu “thanked the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his contribution towards the development of Buddhist community and urged the people to pray for him as well.” Tripura Info mentioned that “[h]e said the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is very much concerned about the problems of the Buddhists especially the Chakmas and talked to him on several occasions about their plight.”
In this regard, the contention of the BJP that the visit was personal in nature cannot be held. Had the Chief Minister desisted from mentioning the Prime Minister in his speech, one may overlook the visit. However, he not only mentioned the Prime Minister in relation to Buddhism but also in relation to their problems and the ‘plight of the Chakmas’. Chakmas makeup about 6.5% of Tripura’s population and are Buddhists.
It has now been established that the BJP has entered into a pre-poll alliance with the Indigenous People’s Front for Tripura (IPFT), and the women’s wing of the IPFT the Indigenous Women’s Front for Tripura (IWFT) has split from the parent body. Pema Khandu’s speech comes in this backdrop of heavy politicking. Whether it was calculated to garner the Chakma vote or was an innocently foolish decision, the speech will in all likelihood never be ascertained.
What is certain is that the Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister has courted action from the Election Commission, and the Left has not let the opportunity slip.