BJP & Congress demands actions from EC on violation of MCC

The voting for the second phase of elections is underway in Gujarat and finally, the fate of the BJP and Congress will be finalised today in the poll-bound state, while the results will be declared on 18 Dec. The elections campaigning for the second phase ended on 12 Dec, but the row between BJP and Congress does not seem to end.

The Election Commission on Wednesday issued a notice to the Congress President-elect Rahul Gandhi for violating the model code of conduct. The BJP filed a complaint against Rahul Gandhi alleging that even after the campaigning had officially ended on 12 Dec, Rahul gave an interview to the media Channels. Acting on the complaint of BJP, EC issued a notice to Rahul and also the media channels for broadcasting the interview.

The Election commission said, “Explain why action should not be taken against you for violating provisions of MCC, failing which the commission will decide the matter without any further reference to you.” Rahul Gandhi is supposed to file his reply before 5 pm on 18 December. The Commission also filed an FIR against the Gujarati news channels for airing the interview of Rahul even after the election campaign in poll-bound Gujarat had officially ended.

According to the model code of conduct, which comes into effect soon after the Election Commision announces the poll dates, the political parties and leaders are not allowed to appeal for votes after the campaign officially ends a day before the polling date. The leaders of BJP filed a complaint against the Congress for the second time, underlined that the Model code of conduct was already in place at the time the interview was aired.

The Elections Campaign also warned the Congress leader that it will decide the matter without any reference to him if he fails to respond to the notice. In its statement to the press, the Election Commision on Wednesday night also asked the TV channels to “forthwith stop airing interviews of Rahul Gandhi as they violated the election law and directed the Gujarat poll authorities to lodge FIRs against anyone for infringement of legal provisions.”

The notice issued to Rahul Gandhi says that “the interview falls within the definition of ”election matter” under Section 126 (3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and display of such election matter within 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for conclusion of the poll, amounts to a violation of the prohibition contained in Section 126 (1) (b) of the Act, 1951.”

On Wednesday BJP leaders and Union Minister, Piyush Goyal during a press conference pulled down on the Congress leader for the alleged violation of the Model code of conduct. Piyush Goyal in his statement said that the Congress was fearing its defeat in Gujarat and therefore are resorting to such measures. The BJP leader also mocked that after he saw the interview of Rahul Gandhi, he felt that the Congress was not even sure how the party will provide reservation to the Patidars on the basis of which the opposition party had wooed in the Patidar votes.

During the conference, Goyal questioned that “We’ve learned from EC too that 48 hours in the run-up to polls, interviews can’t be given. Is Congress so insecure? Only Rahul Gandhi can answer.” The BJP leader also did not miss the opportunity to pull down on the Congress. Piyush Goyal also brought up the recent coal scam in which the former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda is convicted. The Union Minister alleged that the Congress party laundered money to fill up their own pockets.

He also said that the Congress opposed demonetization because the corrupt leaders of Congress were facing trouble. He further added, The Opposition party should criticise itself before criticising others.”

Meanwhile, the Congress party strongly responding to the complaint of BJP to the elections commission criticised the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said that he was panicked over the Gujarat assembly election results and therefore he was threatening the party in the name of the election commission. Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that “The BJP is blatantly using Election Commission of India as a tool for its political gains, which demeans the independent institution.”

Congress also alleged that BJP was deliberately making an issue on baseless grounds and using it as a distraction tactics. In regards to the notice issued to the Media channels for airing the interview of Rahul Gandhi, Randeep Surjewala said that BJP was trying to suppress the media out of its Rahul Gandhi phobia. “When Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi gave interviews to a few Gujarati news channels, BJP in the name of Election Commission, threatened to jail the journalists of those channels for broadcasting it. We condemn this arrogant behavior of BJP,” Surjewala said.

Pointing out at the BJP, the Congress listed the incidents when even the BJP violated the Model code of contact. Randeep Surjewala underlined that BJP violated the MCC when it released the Gujarat election manifesto on the night before the first phase of voting was held on 9 Dec. He also added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also given interview ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election. The Congress spokesperson said that if the interview of Rahul Gandhi is a violation of the Model code of conduct, then even the interview of Modi should be considered as a violation and the Election Commission should take actions impartially.

An article featured on the official website of Congress read that “Exhibiting scant regard for an institution like the Election Commission of India (EC) and its well-established rules and regulations, Modi violated the Model Code of Conduct on Friday. The violation took place in Gujarat, where Modi did a direct vote appeal even though the deadline for campaigning for the first phase was over.”

Reacting to the complaint made by the BJP, the Congress leader, and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram taking a dig at the ruling party said that this action taken by the party is showing its desperation. He also claimed that it a normal norm for every candidate and election campaigner to give an interview after the campaign ends.

He also raised a question that even the BJP leader had given interviews. He pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a speech BJP party President Amit Shah gave an interview, Railway Minister gave an interview but the Elections Commision did not notice any of it. Why only Rahul Gandhi’s was being targeted.

BJP also alleged that the Gujarat Congress President Bharatsinh Solanki was also featured on television on 13 Dec after the elections campaign was officially ended. Solanki was aired saying that the voters responded well to the party in the first phase. BJP alleged that “Shri Bharatsinh Solanki appeared in TV Channel on Wednesday, and said that voters have responded to us in phase one, and we hope they will also respond in phase two polling, and thereby appealed to the people to vote for INC. This is a total violation of the Conduct of Election Rules and Section 126 of the RP Act 1951, and an offense whatsoever as contemplated under the provisions of section 126 of the Representations of Peoples Act 1951 can say to have been committed.”

Counter-attacking the BJP, Congress said that the Prime Minister “has misused the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) platform to attack the Congress and that the EC should stay unbiased.” The opposition party also submitted a memorandum to the EC demanding registration of FIRs against BJP leaders for “violating” the Model Code of Conduct.

Soon after the EC issued a notice to Rahul Gandhi, A delegation of Congress leaders, including  Ashok Gehlot, Anand Sharma, and Randeep Surjewala also marched to the election panel demanding to register FIR against BJP  leaders and Narendra Modi as even they had violated the Model code of conduct. Before meeting the panel, in his statement to the press, Anand Sharma said that “We are going to the Election Commission with a memorandum demanding action against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, Union ministers Arun Jaitley and Piyush Goyal and others for violating the model code.” The party also demanded that the EC should remain non-partisan.

The Congress delegation put forth four demands before the Election panel. The demands were:

  1. Immediately withdraw the order, if any, directing registration of an FIR against news channels for telecasting the interview of Congress President.
  2. Register an FIR against BJP for causing aspersions on the conduct and fairness of EC even before a decision was taken.
  3. In case, yardsticks of violation of MCC is to be applied as is being done by EC, order registration of FIR against PM Shri Narendra Modi; Shri Amit Shah; Shri Arun Jaitley;Shri Piyush Goel; BJP State President, Shri Jeetu Baghani and other BJP leaders for flouting Code of Conduct.
  4. Further direct all members of the print and electronic media to not carry any news item with regard to elections or live telecast any pictures of a casting of votes of any political leader.

The Congress memorandum said: “The Election Commission is duty bound to be fair and impartial. We have to regrettably state the apparent discrimination and an apparent advantage being given to the ruling party militates against this notion.” The party also appealed to the Election Commision that the panel “give directions to all print and electronic media outlets not to carry any news item with regard to elections and not to live telecast pictures of leaders casting votes.”