EC complains to Prez against defiant Khurshid

Minister violated conduct code: Panel

In an unprecedented action, the Election Commission (EC) on Saturday evening wrote to President Pratibha Patil “to take immediate and decisive action” against Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid for his “defiance of the model code of conduct.”

In the letter despatched to the President, the Commission, which had only on Thursday censured the minister for his remarks on quota for Muslims during election meetings in Uttar Pradesh, said: “We have found the minister’s tone and tenor dismissive and utterly contemptuous about the EC’s lawful direction to him.”

The President’s office said Patil had taken note of the letter and forwarded it to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for “appropriate action”.

The letter to the highest constitutional head of the country by the statutory body comes after the EC held an emergency meeting at 5 pm in which it discussed the statement of the minister that he would continue to fight for the “pasmanda Muslims” [backward Muslims] even if he was hanged by the EC.

This is the first time that the poll panel has chosen to write to the President complaining against a Union minister.

As the slugfest between the EC and the minister reached a new high, the Commission wrote: “the defiance by a Union Minister of the Constitutional body was ‘unprecedented’ and his ‘improper and unlawful action’ has put a strain on the delicate balance of functions bet­w­een constitutional au­thorities.”

Sent at 6:45 pm, the EC letter, seeking her immediate intervention, objected to a “defiant and aggressive” Law Minister.

It added: “The Commission is shocked that instead of being remorseful about the violation of the Model Code, that carries the consensus of all political parties and the sanction of the Supreme Court, the minister has chosen to be defiant and aggressive. This is unprecedented.”

According to the EC, Khurshid’s statement “will vitiate free and fair polls in Uttar Pradesh. It has undermined our constitutionally mandated powers. Instead of being remorseful, the minister is defiant. Despite censure, he has raked up the quota issue today.”

The strongly-worded two-page letter said Khurshid’s action was damaging the level playing field in the elections in UP and added that the Commission “found it necessary and unavoidable to turn to you for intervention.

The BJP reacted immediately after the EC letter was made public and demanded Khurshid’s resignation. The party also sought the minister to be banned from campaigning. “The minister should quit”, BJP leader Muktar Abbas Naqvi said immediately after the EC wrote to the President. “It is an extraordinary situation, the minister is challenging the Constitution itself,” Naqvi said. The Samajwadi Party too demanded the resignation of Khurshid.

The EC had earlier censured Khurshid for the same statement made on January 8 while campaigning in Uttar Pradesh, holding that it was violative of the Election Model Code of Conduct.

The UP is in the middle of a seven-phase election, with two rounds being completed. The final phase of polling will be on March 3.

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