New Delhi: The Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday gave a clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a complaint that had accused him of violating the model code of conduct (MCC) during the rally in Wardha of Maharashtra earlier this month. In that address, the prime miser had targeted Rahul Gandhi, without naming him, for contesting from Kerala’s Muslim-dominated Wayanad seat, besides his traditional seat in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi where Hindus are the majority.
“Leaders of that party are now scared of contesting from constituencies dominated by majority (Hindu) population. That is why they are forced to take refuge in places where the majority is in a minority,” Modi had said, which prompted the Congress to complain about the prime minister before the EC and the Supreme Court.
The EC decision to declare the prime minister as ‘not guilty’ was unanimous. Sources said this was the entire commission’s first deliberation since 5 April on the alleged violation of the MCC.
Modi had raised another issue in Wardha on 1 April: “bhagva aatankwad” (saffron terror). “How can Congress be forgiven for insulting the Hindus in front of the world? Weren’t you hurt when you heard the word ‘Hindu terror’? How can a community known for peace, brotherhood and harmony be linked with terrorism? In the thousand years of history, not a single incident shows an act of Hindu terrorism. Even the British historians could never find it,” the prime minister had said.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court asked the commission to take a call on Modi’s speech in Wardha that the Congress complained about. The Congress sought action against BJP president Amit Shah for MCC violations too for alleged use of the armed forces for “political propaganda”.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, while giving the EC a free hand to pass orders on the complaint filed by Sushmita Dev, Congress Lok Sabha MP from Silchar in Assam and president of the All India Mahila Congress, said it would hear the matter on 2 May.
“It will be open for the EC to pass necessary/appropriate orders on the representation of the petitioner. The matter will be heard on 2 May,” said the bench, which comprised also Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph. The apex court issued a notice to the poll panel, seeking its response to Dev’s plea.
Unlike the Congress, however, the Supreme Court does not believe the EC is partisan. Two weeks ago, the apex court had expressed satisfaction at the poll panel’s action against Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, BSP supremo Mayawati, Union minister Maneka Gandhi, Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan, and others for allegedly saying things during the poll campaign that the MCC does not permit.
The petitioner had said that the Congress had verifiable evidence on the MCC violation by Modi and Shah. “The lack of decision despite cogent evidences (sic) and representations to the EC demonstrates abdication and indecision and a complete absence of justice, in ensuring a level playing field in ensuing Lok Sabha polls,” said Dev.
Sources say that the EC could take no action against the prime minister because he did not seek votes in the name of religion. They say Shah could not be warned, let alone blocked, either because members of the political executive can take credit for its policy decision to allow the defence forces, which otherwise function under the control of the civilian government, to take militarily wise actions against hostile countries.