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On Complaints Against PM Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Poll Body’s Notice To Parties

The Election Commission on Thursday issued notices to the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, days after the two rivals traded allegations of Model Code violations in poll speeches by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Lok Sabha MP Rahul Gandhi.

The poll panel – whose response had been awaited as a litmus test on the conduct of a free and fair election in the country – has sought a response from the presidents of the two parties – the BJP’s JP Nadda and the Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge – by 11 am Monday, April 29.

It is significant that neither notice named the senior leaders against whom complaints had been made – i.e., the Prime Minister and Rahul Gandhi. Also, each notice contained copies of the rival’s complaint.

It is also significant that, for the first time, party bosses have been held accountable for violations in a campaign speech. This is under Section 77 of the Representation of People Act, which allows parties to name ‘star campaigners’ and they, therefore, have been called on to regulate their speeches.

In a two-page statement issued this morning, the ECI declared “‘star campaigners’ (Prime Minister Modi and Rahul Gandhi have been listed as such) are expected to contribute to a higher quality of discourse… which sometimes gets distorted in the heat of the contests at the local level”.

The ECI said that it is of the “considered view parties will have to take primary and increasing responsibility for the conduct of their candidates in general, and star campaigners in particular”.

“Campaign speeches by those holding high positions are of more serious consequence.”

The EC said that “while individual star campaigners will continue to remain responsible for speeches made, the commission will address the party presidents/head of the party on a case-to-case basis”.

Sources also pointed to transgressions by Congress leader Supriya Shrinate and the BJP’s Dilip Ghosh earlier this election season. In both those cases, the Election Commission – which ruled the two made “low-level personal attacks” – issued notices of censure directly to the leaders in question.

Sources said in the above two cases too, the BJP and the Congress chiefs also received notices.

In this instance, the poll panel told both the Congress and the BJP that “… whereas yours is a national party and is therefore expected to be the standard-bearer in political and campaign discourse, and as such also set high standards of compliance of the Model Code of Conduct”.

The BJP has not yet responded to the EC’s notice, copies of which were addressed to Mr Nadda and Mr Kharge. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh took a jab at the EC, calling them “super super cautious when it comes to the PM and super cautious when it comes to the HM (Home Minister Amit Shah).”

The Congress had complained about the Prime Minister’s speech in Rajasthan’s Banswara over the weekend, in which he referred to Muslims and said the opposition party plans to “redistribute wealth to infiltrators”. The party had also complained about Mr Modi referring to its manifesto as a “Muslim League imprint” and alleging that it plans to divide the country should it win the election.

“It completely bears the imprint of the Muslim League, and whatever is remaining is completely dominated by the Leftists,” the PM had said, when talking about the Congress manifesto.

Mr Modi, who delivered an election speech in Madhya Pradesh’s Morena earlier today, was in action in Agra hours later, where he doubled down on his “Muslim League imprint” jab.

Two days earlier the BJP had filed a counter-complaint, claiming Mr Gandhi had made “derisive and obnoxious utterances” against the Prime Minister. The reference was to a speech by the Congress leader in Kottayam in Kerala, in which he said “… how can you tell the people of Tamil Nadu not to speak Tamil (and) the people of Kerala not to speak Malayalam… BJP does this with language, place, caste, and religion… whenever they get an opportunity, they divide the country…”

The BJP slammed Mr Gandhi as a “habitual offender” and also accused Congress boss Mr Kharge of “grossly misleading voters by declaring the BJP is going to change the Constitution if they win…”

Back in March, while announcing the dates of the seven-phase election, the EC had warned politicians not to cross the “red line” during campaigning. The poll panel told political parties it was putting them “on notice” and said informing their star campaigners of the guidelines was their responsibility.

The 2024 Lok Sabha election began last week, on April 19, and will run for 44 days till June 1. Voting will take place over seven phases, with the second due tomorrow. The results will be out on June 4.

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Source: NDTV

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