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Deliberately Decided Not to Touch Top Two People in BJP, Congress: EC Chief

Chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar was responding to a question from the ‘Scroll’ news website about why the commission did not rein in the prime minister's remarks targeting Muslims.
Chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar. Photo: Screengrab via YouTube/ECI

New Delhi: When asked why the Election Commission (EC) did not act decisively against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks targeting Muslims this general election, chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar told Scroll it had “deliberately decided” it would “not touch” the top two leaders in the BJP and the Congress.

“We deliberately decided – this is such a huge nation – that the top two people in both the parties we did not touch. Both party presidents we touched equally,” Scroll quoted Kumar as saying on Monday (June 3).

The news outlet said Kumar was referring to Modi and home minister Amit Shah, and the Congress’s Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, when he said top two people in both parties.

During a speech in Rajasthan in April, Modi said that promises made in the Congress’s manifesto meant it would redistribute people’s wealth, including the mangalsutras worn by married Hindu women, to “those who produce more children” and “infiltrators” – terms he used to obliquely refer to Muslims.

The Wire and other media have reported that the Congress manifesto does not promise to do this.

The Congress complained to the EC about this speech. On the other hand the saffron party had lodged its own complaint to the poll body against Rahul Gandhi.

In its responses to these complaints the EC chose to address the two parties’ presidents rather than Modi and Gandhi specifically, and when it resolved the complaints – over a month after Modi’s Rajasthan speech – it directed the party presidents to in turn direct their star campaigners not to violate the regulatory model code of conduct.

Adding to his response to Scroll‘s question on Monday, Kumar added: “Why did we leave two this side and two that side? The persons in position in this huge country also have responsibility. We reminded them of their responsibility.”

When further of the usefulness of writing to the two parties’ presidents rather than to Modi and Gandhi, Kumar said: “So? What is the party president? Because of that party president’s direction, at least 80% of the second rung has not said anything.”

Scroll‘s report said he was referring to leaders such as BJP chief ministers and Union ministers – but Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, for example, has still made Islamophobic remarks this election.

Kumar also referred to the Delhi high court and the Supreme Court’s decisions not to entertain pleas seeking the EC act against Modi for model code violations.

“Twice it went to court … It is written in that order. Once to Delhi HC and once to SC. The thing which is judged … you cannot over and over say anything on that,” he said according to Scroll.

It is unclear which cases Kumar was referring to exactly, but both courts had dismissed petitions seeking Modi’s disqualification from the elections on account of alleged model code violations, with the high court saying it was up to the EC to take an independent view and the apex court saying the petitioner needed to approach the EC first.

The EC chief also said the commission “did not touch equally glaring things on the other side also” – apparently a reference to the opposition.

He added that “after all, you have to give a space to the topmost person to also feel responsible … If Mr [Jairam] Ramesh has said something, he is in a high position, he must feel responsible. When will you understand your responsibility?”, Scroll reported.

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