On the final day of polling in Gujarat, the Congress and the BJP bitterly fought each other before the Election Commission (EC), with the Opposition party even accusing the constitutional body of being a ‘kathputli’ (puppet) and a ‘bandhak’ (hostage) of the ruling party and the Prime Minister’s office.
The BJP shot back and said the Congress was being petty for calling the EC ‘names’. The Congress’ anger stemmed from the EC allegedly not acting immediately on its complaint of Prime Minister Narendra Modi holding an alleged roadshow with BJP flags in Ahmedabad on the polling day.
The EC also gave a clean chit to PM Modi for launching submarine Kalvari Submarine in Mumbai on the polling day. The poll body said the action does not come under the purview of the Model Code of Conduct and thus does not violate it, reported DNA India.
However, the Commission said it is examining the complaint on the PM’s ‘roadshow’. “It is under examination and the Commission will soon give its decision,” the EC said.
A high-level BJP delegation led by Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, and comprising Union Ministers Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Nirmala Sitharaman, also rushed to the EC to deny any kind of roadshow by the PM.
In a two-page memorandum to the EC, the Congress accused it of “double standards” for sending a notice to Rahul Gandhi and registering an FIR against channels that aired his interview on Wednesday.
The party alleged that the EC didn’t show the same alacrity and was “complicit” with the ruling party and the PM.
“This is unjustified, unwarranted and unacceptable in our democratic polity,” said the chief of its media wing Randeep Singh Surjewala. “If Election Commission becomes subservient and captive to the whims and fancies of the Prime Minister and the ruling Party, the entire independence of the election process would come under a cloud,” he said.
Congress workers held protests near the EC headquarters at Ashoka Road in Delhi. Many of them were detained for disrupting traffic. The poll body called police to barricade its office and said it is awaiting a report from the Ahmedabad collector on the roadshow charge.
“Despite giving you conclusive evidence of flagrant violation of the Code of Conduct by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, (and BJP leaders) Arun Jaitley, Amit Shah, Piyush Goyal and others and demand for registration of an FIR against them following the same yardstick that you are following for news channels and Congress president-elect, EC failed to take any action,” the Congress said.
Surjewala said the release of the BJP manifesto by Jaitley a day before the first round of polling on December 9 in violation of the 48-hour ban on campaign, an airport press conference by BJP president Amit Shah, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal’s press conference at the BJP headquarters on Wednesday “to influence the voters” in Thursday’s poll are all violations of the code of conduct. “It is a sad letter day in India’s history for the position of Election Commission of India as an independent arbiter stands compromised,” it said, regretting that “tragically, naked prejudice of Election Commission and failure to act against the Prime Minister and BJP leaders is writ large as never has the Constitution, the law and the Code of Conduct been trampled in this fashion by a Prime Minister and the ruling party in complete knowledge and with tacit complicity of the Election Commission.”
“Another tragic example of EC officials subjugating before the Prime Minister is apparent from the statement made by the Electoral Officer in Gujarat to the effect that he has received no complaint from anybody regarding the roadshow. Does it not tantamount to turning an absolute blind eye to violation of Code of Conduct and by-passing of the law and the Constitutional norms,” a Congress memorandum asked, pointing out that “our Gujarat unit has also filed two complaints since morning but no action.”
The Congress also registered its anguish that it has been seeking an appointment with the EC in Delhi since 8 am on Thursday, yet its office gave time at 4 pm which “itself would be redundant as the polling comes to an end at 5 pm.”
Even on Wednesday, “we kept on seeking appointments from Election Commission and were asked to come at 11 am on Thursday. Only when we told the EC officials that Congress party will sit in dharna before the Election Commission that you agreed to meet us at 10.15 pm.“