EC gives clean chit to PM for Wardha speech

In his speech on April 1, Modi had claimed that Rahul Gandhi was scared of contesting from constituencies dominated by Hindus. (PTI File Photo)

The Election Commission on Tuesday gave a clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the allegation that he had flouted the model code of conduct while campaigning for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at Wardha in Maharashtra on April 1.

The EC's decision came a month after the prime minister said at an election rally in Wardha that the Congress was scared of contesting from the constituencies where the majority of the population were Hindus.

Modi had accused the Opposition Congress of hurting the sentiments of the Hindus of the country by coining the term “Hindu Terror”. In a veiled reference to Congress president Rahul Gandhi's decision to contest from Wayanad in Kerala in addition to Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, the prime minister had said that the leaders of the Opposition party had been seeking election from constituencies where the “majority” community of the country had been the “minority”.

The EC, however, held that Modi had not violated the model code of conduct (MCC).

The Congress moved the Supreme Court on Monday, complaining that the poll panel had been sitting on cases of alleged violation of MCC by the prime minister as well as BJP president Amit Shah. The apex court issued notice to the commission on Tuesday.

The EC officials had told journalists on Monday that Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and election commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra would meet on Tuesday and “examine” the cases of alleged violation of MCC by Modi and Shah as well as Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

The CEC and the two other election commissioners “examined in detail in accordance with the extant guidelines and provisions of the Model Code of Conduct, the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the report of the Chief Electoral Officer, Maharashtra”. “Accordingly,” the EC later said, “the commission is of the considered view that in this matter, no such violation has been noticed.”

They, however, did not decide if Modi had violated its advisory by referring to the Indian Army and India's air strikes on a terror camp in Pakistan while addressing a rally at Latur in Maharashtra on April 9. The EC had on March 9 and 19 issued two advisories asking politicians not to display the pictures of defence personnel or refer to their activities to seek votes during electioneering.

The prime minister, while addressing a rally in Latur on April 9, called upon first-time voters to dedicate their votes to the defence personnel who conducted India's February 26 air strikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp in Pakistan.

The poll panel also did not take a call on any of the allegations of violation of poll code by Amit Shah and Rahul Gandhi.

The Election Commission, in the recent weeks, acted against other leaders of both the ruling BJP as well as the Opposition parties for flouting the MCC, Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the order of the Supreme Court by invoking religion or caste during election campaigning and by appealing to communal feelings to secure votes.

The commission earlier barred senior BJP leaders like Union Minister Maneka Gandhi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath from campaigning for a certain period of time after they directly or indirectly invoked religion in their speeches during election campaigning. It also took similar action against Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati.

It, however, still gave a clean chit to Prime Minister Modi, concluding that his speech in Wardha on April 1 did not violate the MCC or the R.P. Act, 1951.

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