As Gujarat enters decisive second and final phase of polling, the ruling BJP and challenger Congress exchanged allegtaions over alleged violation of model code of conduct. After the election commission issued show case notice to Rahul Gandhi over his interview to news channels, the Congress flagged alleged violation by Prime Minister Modi and other BJP leaders.
The BJP, which lodged complained with the poll authorities, claimed that airing of interviews on the poll eve was a “clear violation” of the poll code.
The Election Commission had Wednesday asked TV channels to “forthwith stop” airing interviews of Rahul Gandhi reasoning they violated the election law and directed the Gujarat poll authorities to lodge FIR against anyone for infringement of legal provisions.
In a press statement, the poll panel said Gandhi, the Congress president-elect, talked about the Gujarat Assembly elections in which the polling for the second phase will be held on Thursday.
“Such display falls within the definition of election matter” under Section 126 (3) of Representation of the People Act, 1951 and display of such election matter within 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in the poll-going areas, amounts to violation of Section 126 (1)(b) of Representation of the People Act, 1951,” it said.
The statement said after due deliberations, the EC has directed the Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat “to initiate necessary action by filing FIR against those who have violated the above mentioned provisions in phase two districts in Gujarat”.
“Further, those TV channels which are violating the provisions of Section 126 (1)(b] by displaying said election matter in phase two district in Gujarat have been directed to forthwith stop the display of such matter,” it said.
Soon after, the Congress party petitioned the Election Commission for action against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for addressing an event organised by an industry body on the eve of the final phase of the Gujarat polls where he attacked the main opposition party.
A delegation of Congress leaders comprising Ashok Gehlot, Anand Sharma and Randeep Surjewala handed over memorandum to the poll body, demanding strong action against Modi and other BJP leaders for addressing press conferences and events on the eve of last phase of polling in Gujarat.
Congress leader Surjewala also termed the developments as against the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution.
“The Election Commission is duty bound to be fair and impartial. We have to regrettably state the apparent discrimination and an apparent advantage being given to the ruling party militates against this notion,” the Congress memorandum read.
It also requested the poll body to immediately withdraw its order directing registration of an FIR against news channels for telecasting the interview of Gandhi.
“In case the yardstick of violation of model code of conduct is to be applied as is being done by EC order, register an FIR against prime minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Union minister Pyush Goyal, BJP state president Jeetu Vaghani and other BJP leaders for flouting the model code of conduct,” the memorandum said.
It also demanded that EC give directions to all print and electronic media outlets not to carry any news item with regard to elections and not to live telecast pictures of leaders casting votes.
Surjewala said Modi, while campaigning as BJP’s PM candidate in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, had given interviews but no case was registered then. “These double standards will not be allowed,” he said.
(With inputs from PTI)