EC Issues Notice To “Flying Squad” Who Tried Blocking Rafale Book Launch
Tamil Nadu based publishing house Bharathi Puthkalayam was all set to release the book “Naatai Ulukkum Rafale Baera Oozhal” (Rafale: The Scam that Rocked the Nation) in its office in Chennai when an (ironically named) election “flying squad” intervened and seized 142 copies of the book claiming that it was against the election moral code of conduct, as reported by The News Minute. Later on Election Commission issued notice to a show-cause notice to officers who ordered ban on the book and relieved them from election duty.
The book, as reported by The Telegraph, is written by Chennai-based engineer, Author, Translator, and Social Activist S. Vijayan. It is an exhaustive account of the reportage in the Rafale Controversy available in the public domain. It also contains the information revealed by N. Ram, The chairman of The Hindu publishing group and the supposed chief guest of the book launch, through his investigation into the controversy.
What is the Rafale controversy?
In the year 2000, India began the process of negotiating the acquiring of 126 fighter-jets to replace the then current fleet. In 2007, after repeated probing by the Indian Air Force, PM Manmohan Singh started the bidding process. In 2012, the bid was won by the French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation. On his visit to France in 2015, PM Narendra Modi announced that India would buy 36 Rafale Jets that were to be deployed immediately, effectively scraping the earlier negotiations. A preliminary cost analysis was drawn by the government. Complications arose when the opposition alleged foul-play by the government and with the involvement of CBI and the Supreme Court it eventually snowballed into what is now called the Rafale Controversy. You can read a summary of the controversy here, here, and here.
What happened at the book release?
The intervention by the “flying squad” soon gave rise to an online uproar which caught the attention of the media and Tamil Nadu’s Chief electoral officer Satyabrata Sahoo. In response to the EC’s involvement Sahoo sent a message to a group of journalists saying, “Regarding the seizure of books, neither the ECI nor the CEO’s office had given any instructions. I have directed DEO (district electoral officer), Chennai, to look into and give his report immediately.”
In the evening the decision was reversed and the launch was allowed to go ahead. Some damage was done as pdf copies of the 48-page book started making rounds on social media. It is being reported that the book does not violate the model code of conduct.
A publisher of Bharathi Puthkalayam in his statement to The Wire said, “They seized 145 copies. We see it as an onslaught on the spirit of democracy. It is a book on one of the most important controversies of our times, to seize it in the name of the elections and stop us from releasing it is a challenge to the democratic values of this country.”