Indian Election Commission bans release of Modi biopic ahead of polls

NEW DELHI: A biopic about Prime Minister Narendra Modi described by his opponents as propaganda has been barred from release during the national election, a government body overseeing the poll said Wednesday. India's election commission said any biopic "which has the potential to disturb the level playing field during the elections should not be displayed". Under Indian election rules, the publication of any content deemed as campaign material — including advertisements, films and even social media — requires the election commission's prior approval. Congress, the main opposition party, said the film was flattering of Modi and had slammed the timing of its cinematic release as hundreds of millions of Indians prepare to start voting in a national election Thursday. It had lobbied for the movie — which tells the story of the Hindu nationalist leader's ascent to power from his days selling tea at a train station — be withheld from cinemas until voting in the mega-elections ends on May 19. The commission, in its statement outlining its decision, said it was vital that "the power of media is not used in such a manner which affects the general conduct" of the elections.

The Indian Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition filed by a Congress seeking a stay on the release of the biopic and said the Election Commission would be an "appropriate" place to seek the redressal. The plea had sought deferment of the biopic's release till the completion of the coming Lok Sabha polls, alleging that it was designed to "manipulate, influence and impress viewers and voters".

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