The Election Commission on Thursday directed the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) to immediately stop sending ‘Viksit Bharat’ messages on WhatsApp as the Model Code of Conduct is in force.

“The Commission has received complaints that such messages are still being delivered on citizens’ phones. Since the MCC is now in force, you are hereby directed to ensure forthwith that no further delivery of WhatsApp messages takes place during the MCC period,” EC Senior Principal Secretary Narendra N Butolia told the Secretary, MeITY, on Thursday.

In a letter to the EC, the Ministry said the messages were sent on March 15, before the MCC came into force, but it was possible that delivery of some letters was delayed due to the system architecture and network limitations.

The messages have stirred a political controversy, as besides the timing, non-Indians from Pakistan, the UAE, and Britain also claimed to have received PM Modi’s letter on their smartphones. They wondered how the Indian government got their mobile phone numbers and why were they targeted in the ‘Viksit Bharat Sampark’ campaign meant to seek feedback and suggestions from citizens. The message was accompanied by a letter from Modi, that landed on smartphones having WhatsApp messenger services.

Through the letter, the PM has reached out to the public, saying: “I need and, indeed, look forward to your ideas, suggestions and support as we work to fulfil the resolve of building a Viksit Bharat.”

Opposition political parties, including the Congress’ Kerala unit, have charged that in the guise of feedback, the claims Modi makes about his government are part of his campaign for the General Elections, and is a misuse of the government database.