India’s main opposition party has criticized a Bollywood biopic of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, labeling it as propaganda and suggesting its forthcoming release contravenes the country’s election laws.
In a petition to the Election Commission, the Congress Party demanded that the release of “PM Narendra Modi” be delayed until after the country’s elections, which begin on April 11 and will last for about six weeks.
In India, any material that would serve as a political advertisement is banned during the weeks leading up to an election, unless it is approved by the Election Commission.
The movie, in which the prime minister is played by Indian actor Vivek Oberoi, depicts poignant moments throughout Modi’s life, including him selling tea on the railways as a child, his two-year spiritual stint in the Himalayas as a teen and leading the Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to a landslide victory at the polls in 2014.
It also features Modi as chief minister of Gujarat, lamenting anti-Muslim violence in which more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in 2002.
Modi was criticized for not doing enough to halt that violence, but a Supreme Court-ordered investigation absolved him of blame.
“This is no artistic venture. It is a political venture,” said Kapil Sibal, senior Congress Party leader Monday. “The purpose of this film is only political – to get some extra mileage in the election.”
The Congress Party, under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, is going head to head with Modi’s Hindu BJP in next month’s general election.
Other parties have also objected to the timing of the biopic’s release, which was recently brought forward by a week A total of 47 former civil servants have written an open letter urging the Election Commission to investigate.
“It is, therefore, necessary to examine whether the release of this biopic after the announcement of elections … is consonant with the principles of a free and fair election,” the letter read.
The Delhi Chief Electoral Office said it was awaiting a reply from the movie’s creators. The movie’s producers have not commented publicly.