NEW DELHI: The Congress on Friday accused the Modi government of "grossest interference" in the working of the Election Commission, saying the decision not to declare the dates for the Gujarat elections cuts at the root of constitutional principles and was a "shameless tactic" to save itself from a thrashing at the hustings.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told media persons here that the BJP was trying to convert the "Election Commission into Election Omission" and its "shameless tactics" were "a last-ditch effort to save itself from the thrashing in Gujarat in the forthcoming elections".
He said the decision was a "fundamental assault on the level-playing field concept".
"It is not a small matter. It cuts at the root of several constitutional fundamental principles. It is grossest interference in a shameless manner. It violates the basic structure of the Indian Constitution as holding free, fair elections is part of the basic structure," Singhvi said.
"It has denigrated the authority and power of the Election Commission. A drowning man is desperately clutching at a straw," he added.
The Election Commission on Thursday declared assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh but not for Gujarat even as the term of assemblies in both states ends in January. However, it said the elections in the state will be held by December 18.
Singhvi claimed that the poll panel appeared to have handed a rope to the BJP to "somehow climb the cliff at a time when it is down and out and is looking to somehow lure the electorate with sops".
He said the announcement had also cast "a serious shadow of suspicion on the working of the Election Commission".
Singhvi said dates of the Gujarat polls should be announced immediately and the Model Code of Conduct be immediately enforced.
The Congress leader said the "BJP had forced this change" so as to enable Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce various sops "like a false Santa Claus" in Gujarat on October 16.
Singhvi said that within 10 minutes of the poll panel's presser, the BJP government in Gujarat announced sops worth hundreds of crores.
"The sops were aimed at wooing agitating Patidars, the Valmiki community, lakhs of government employees and the powerful builder lobby. Why was it in such a tiring hurry. Is it not an example of corruption. This is an attempt at collective bribery?" he said.
He said the BJP-ruled Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) advanced its standing committee meeting by an hour and a half to clear proposals worth Rs 530 crore in just 10 minutes.
The Congress leader said that Modi has repeatedly talked of simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and assembly and the BJP too has been talking about it.
"But these were not conducted in two states simultaneously," he said.
Singhvi said past practices, conventions and precedents were being "set aside to help the BJP".
He said Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh have gone to elections together since 1998 except in 2002-03 when Gujarat was hit by riots.
Singhvi said earlier this year, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand went to polls together and the poll schedule, spread over a month from February 4 to March 8, was all announced on January 4.
Referring to the Election Commission stating that it is supposed to conduct elections in a state within 46 days, Singhvi said this time limit has been broken in the past on numerous occasions including in elections in Delhi, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Arunachal and Andhra Pradesh.
He said people of Himachal Pradesh have been made to wait for results for over a month "just because PM has to announce sops".
He said another reason being cited is of flood relief and said floods occurred in some parts of Gujarat in July 2017 but this reflected poorly on the state government which has not been able to complete the work in more than three months.
Singhvi also alleged that the Election Commission had not held a meeting with the Home Ministry to discuss security issues prior to its announcement.