Election Commission of India office in New Delhi.
Election Commission of India office in New Delhi.FILE Photo |Shekhar Yadav, EPS

EC issues notice to BJP, Congress over alleged model code violations by PM Modi, Rahul Gandhi

EC has sought BJP president JP Nadda's response by Monday to the complaints filed by Opposition parties and civil society groups regarding the remarks made by PM Modi on April 21 in Banswara.

NEW DELHI: Taking cognisance for the first time of a model code violation complaint against a prime minister, the Election Commission on Thursday issued a notice to BJP president JP Nadda on the Opposition charge that Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a divisive and defamatory speech in Rajasthan's Banswara.

Separately, the poll panel also issued a notice to Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, asking him to respond to the complaints filed by the BJP against him and the main opposition party's senior leader Rahul Gandhi regarding their remarks.

In the notice sent to Nadda, the Election Commission sought his response by Monday to the complaints filed by the Congress, CPI, CPI (ML) and civil society groups regarding the remarks made by Modi on April 21 in Banswara.

These complaints had referred to Modi's allegations that the Congress wanted to redistribute the wealth of the people to Muslims and that the opposition party won't even spare the 'mangalsutra' of women.

The speech led to a major political slugfest, with the Congress and other opposition parties accusing the prime minister of making false claims and the BJP alleging that the Congress was nursing an agenda of Muslim appeasement at the cost of weaker sections of society.

The EC also asked Nadda to bring to the notice of all star campaigners of the party to "set high standards of political discourse and observe provisions of model code of conduct in letter and spirit."

The poll panel also said that campaign speeches made by those holding high positions have more serious consequences.

Officials said it is the first time that the panel has taken cognisance of a complaint against any prime minister.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the EC had given a clean chit to Modi on complaints lodged by the opposition parties.

Then election commissioner, Ashok Lavasa, gave a dissent note on some of the decisions taken by the EC on complaints against the prime minister.

The EC has invoked provisions of the Representation of the People Act to hold party presidents as the first step to rein in star campaigners.

According to the poll panel, it has taken the view that while individual star campaigners would continue to remain responsible for speeches made by them, the Commission will address party chiefs "on a case-to-case basis."

With this, the EC has ensured an "added layer" of responsibility on party heads, the functionaries explained.

Recently, Kharge was asked to explain remarks made by two of his party leaders against women.

The poll authority issued a similarly-worded notice separately to the Congress president with regard to allegations levelled by the BJP against him and Gandhi.

The EC notices to the two-party presidents did not directly name either Modi, Gandhi or Kharge, but the representations received by it were attached to the respective letters, and they contained details of allegations against the three leaders.

The BJP, on the other hand, had written to the EC that Gandhi levelled malafide and utterly sinister allegations against Modi during a speech in Kottayam, Kerala, where he alleged that the prime minister was pushing for one nation, one language, one religion.

The BJP said that in Coimbatore, in Tamil Nadu, Gandhi alleged that the prime minister was attacking "our language, history and tradition."

It also accused Kharge of violating the model code by claiming that he was not invited to the Ram temple consecration ceremony due to discrimination against SCs and STs.

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