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BJP, Congress move EC over Rahul, Maneka Gandhi remarks

The slugfest between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reached the doorsteps of the Election Commission of India (EC) on Friday with both parties accusing each other of violating the model code of conduct (MCC).

The main opposition party moved the EC over several issues, including the alleged “repeated politicisation of the armed forces” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah in their election rallies despite the poll panel’s clear guidelines on the issue.

The BJP petitioned the commission to take action against Congress president Rahul Gandhi for the “language” used by him following the Supreme Court’s order on the admissibility of leaked Rafale deal documents.

The court ruled that it could consider the documents in dealing with review petitions filed against its December order, which rejected petitions calling for a probe of the deal.

Gandhi had said, “Supreme Court has pronounced the verdict, chowkidar is a chor [the watchman is a thief].”

A Congress delegation, comprising senior leaders Ahmed Patel, KC Venugopal, Randeep Singh Surjewala, Jairam Ramesh, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Shaktisinh Gohil, also handed to the EC a representation regarding Union minister Smriti Irani’s “contradictory affidavits” on her educational qualifications.

Alleging that she had “falsified records” of her educational qualifications, they demanded that Irani be disqualified from contesting and proceedings initiated against her for filing a “false affidavit, which attracts up to six months’ imprisonment, and/or a fine.”

“Ek mantri bhi kabhi graduate thi [a minister was also a graduate once], this is a new film and series running in the country,” Surjewala told reporters after meeting the EC.

But Irani, who is contesting against Congress president Rahul Gandhi, was quick to hit back. “I have a message for them… as much as you try, I will work for Amethi against the Congress. No matter what you say, the more you harass me, the harder I’ll work,” she said.

On whether action can be taken on Irani’s previous affidavit by the poll panel, a former chief election commissioner said on the condition of anonymity that anyone wishing to complain can take it up with the appropriate court of law. “The EC cannot take a decision on this,” he said.

The Congress also called for a first information report (FIR) to be registered against Union minister Maneka Gandhi, and the rejection of her nomination papers for the Sultanpur seat in Uttar Pradesh, over a speech in which she said Muslims in the constituency should vote for her in case they wanted jobs, seen as a veiled threat against the minority community.

The Congress also moved the commission against the Prime Minister and BJP chief Amit Shah for allegedly “dragging” the armed forces into the political domain by using them to seek votes. “PM Modi, BJP chief and other leaders of the ruling party are shamelessly and openly, for the first time in 70 years, dragging the forces into cheap politics,” Singhvi told reporters.

“Dragging the armed forces in political crossfire, asking for votes and doing cheap politics, only Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have done this,” he said.

Singhvi said the Congress urged the EC to stop such violations and not just censure those violating MCC, but also dock those guilty of violation on the day of campaigning. “If the person makes another violation, he/she should be barred from two days of campaigning, similarly three and four days for third and fourth violation,” he said.

The Congress leader said the EC should also put a stop on the web series on Modi, citing the commission’s order stalling a biopic on the prime minister.

A BJP delegation, led by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and senior leader MA Naqvi, submitted a memorandum to the EC over Gandhi’s “false and baseless” statement after the Supreme Court order on Rafale documents.

“Rahul had erroneously said even on Thursday that Supreme Court has admitted to the fact that Narendra Modi siphoned off ~30,000 crore to his friend Anil Ambani. Where did that happen? Did Supreme Court ever say this?” Sitharaman told reporters after meeting the EC.

The BJP told the poll body that Gandhi’s tweets and statements had been widely published in electronic, print and social media. “He has made the above mentioned statements deliberately without verifying the truth and are not only false and baseless, but also presumptive in nature and clearly prohibited by the MCC,” the party said.

The BJP delegation also demanded a re-poll in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar Lok Sabha seat alleging that the ruling Trinamool Congress indulged in malpractices during polling.

The polls were held there on Thursday with a voting percentage of 81%.

The delegation complained to the EC that rigging was carried out in booths where state police personnel were on guard, and the poll panel failed to provide adequate security to the voters.

The party also sought a re-poll in various polling booths of the districts of Senapatl, Ukhrul, Tamenglong and Chandel in Outer Manipur parliamentary constituency alleging “unprecedented and disproportionate rigging and booth capture by NSCN(IM) cadres” in the Naga dominated areas.

“In several places in Ukhrul and Senapati, BJP workers, ADC members and leaders have been kept under house arrest by the NSCN (IM) cadres. They were not allowed to cast their votes or get their supporters to cast votes. At several polling stations, BJP polling agents were not allowed access to the polling stations,” the BJP told the poll panel.

Jagdeep Chhokar of the election watchdog Association for Democratic Rights (ADR) also said the recurrence of MCC violations calls for “stringent action”.

“These violations have become rampant and it seems the EC cannot keep up. They need to take exemplary action in some cases so that it deters the others,” he said.

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