NEW DELHI: Having landed himself in deep trouble with the Election Commission, Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid today argued that his controversial comments on quota for minorities was an issue of governance and did not relate to polls even as the Congress virtually disapproved of the statement.
Khurshid also spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on telephone from Lucknow but there was no official word what transpired between the two amid reports tonight he clarified he had not violated the EC directive. There were also reports that the Prime Minister may convene a meeting of his senior ministers tomorrow to discuss the Khurshid row.
The Minister's remarks that led the EC to censure him triggered a demand from BJP for his dismissal from the Union Cabinet with a comment that the "Law Minister has become the main law breaker" and that Congress was trying to "communalise" polls. BJP also demanded that Khurshid be barred from further campaigning for Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh.
The issue has nothing to do with elections and it's an issue of governance, Khurshid said about his comments on sub quota for Muslims made during poll campaign.
Khurshid told reporters he has only said what is there in the Congress manifesto and that the Election Commission is perfectly entitled to do what it wanted.
The Congress while distancing itself from Khurshid's remarks said the party always wants its leaders to speak as per the norms of public life and law of the land.
"The Election Commission is a constitutional body.
Congress always wants that all Congressmen should speak as per the norms of public life and the law of the land," AICC General Secretary and media department Chairman Janardan Dwivedi said in a statement.
In an unprecedented action, the EC yesterday sought the "immediate and decisive" intervention of President Pratibha Patil after it charged Khurshid with "improper and unlawful" defiance of its orders under which he was censured for promising sub-quota for minorities.
When asked to comment on Dwivedi's remarks, Khurshid said, "Hum bhi to yahi keh rahe hain...Sabko apne dayre me rahna chahiye", (I am saying the same thing...Everyone should remain in his limits".
Khurshid also said there may be different points of view but there are no differences.
Khurshid's party colleague Digvijay Singh defended him, saying every political party has the right to talk about their programmes during election campaigns and it was not correct to press charges like these against political leaders.
"With great humility, I would like to ask the EC that if political outfits are not allowed to speak about their agenda, then the party manifesto should also be stopped," Digvijay said.
Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj of BJP demanded dismissal of Khurshid as the Law Minister for acting against the Constitution.
"We request the President to withdraw her pleasure and dismiss Salman Khurshid as a Minister of the Union Cabinet for acting against the law and the Constitution," she tweeted.
BJP leaders L K Advani and Arun Jaitley, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, also made a similar demand.
"The PM should sack Khurshid for making comments on EC. No minister had ever made comments against the EC in such a way. After being censured by the Commission, the minister is making mockery of model code of conduct", Advani said.
"I have reason to believe it's a part of scripted conspiracy by Congress to communalise UP elections..the more it's done..you might save yourself from the utter disgrace," Jaitley said.
"It is my appeal to Prime Minister that such cheap tradition should not be set that during elections the Law Minister become the main law breaker," he said.
Supporting the EC's move against the Law Minister, CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat said the Commission has the complete right to implement code of conduct in case of any violation.
JD-U president Sharad Yadav maintained that the Law Minister has a "politically-driven agenda" and demanded that the Prime Minister should "ban" him in Uttar Pradesh as he was trying to "desperately" get votes.