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Without Naming Modi, EC Tells BJP 'Star Campaigners' to Stay Away from Divisive Speeches

In a letter to JP Nadda on May 22, the poll body said it 'carefully examined' his reply to the notice issued by it in response to a set of complaints received from the Congress and found that the 'defence offered on alleged utterances (are) not tenable'.
Election Commission of India.

New Delhi: Without naming Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Election Commission (EC) has ruled that his sensational poll speech delivered at Bhanswara in Rajasthan on April 21, as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s ‘star campaigner’, violated the model code of conduct (MCC).

The Commission also said that all ‘star campaigners’ of the party continued to flout the MCC, even after the electoral body issued a show cause notice to its president J.P. Nadda.

In a letter to Nadda on May 22, the commission said it “carefully examined” his reply to the notice issued by it in response to a set of complaints received from the Opposition Congress and found that the “defence offered on alleged utterances, (are) not tenable”.

Referring to Nadda’s reply, the Commission termed it “a generic assertion” while there was “no explicit denial” of the fact that they delivered those speeches.

The EC, while continuing to refrain from naming Modi, directed Nadda, as party president, to ask “all star campaigners” henceforth to “refrain from any campaigning methods/utterances along religious/communal lines”.

“Commission expects BJP, as the ruling party at the Centre, to fully align the campaign methods to the practical aspects of the composite and sensitive fabric of India”, it said, adding a directive to Nadda that as party president he “is to convey to all star campaigners to not make speeches and statements  which may divide the society”.

The letter refers to several complaints lodged by the Congress to the EC against BJP star campaigners during the ongoing campaign for the general elections in which the Opposition party had pointed out, among other speeches, the ones made by Modi in a rally in Uttar Pradesh that the Congress’ manifesto was “a reflection of Muslim league”; and that if it comes to power, it would snatch the property of Hindus and distribute it to “those with more children”.

Concurrently, the EC also issued a letter to the Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on a set of complaints filed by the BJP against a poll speech of its ‘star campaigner’ Rahul Gandhi, particularly around the Modi government’s Agniveer scheme, and that is the BJP returns to power it would “destroy” the Constitution. The Commission, here too, refrained from naming Gandhi or other ‘star campaigners’.

While Gandhi’s reference to the Agniveer Scheme comes across as a criticism of a policy adopted by the government of a party it is up against in these elections, the EC though felt it comes within the purview of the MCC. “MCC has a specific prohibition against the use of armed forces for campaigning purposes,” was the defence of the electoral body.

The letter also directed Kharge as the party’s president to ask the ‘star campaigners’ to not make statements “which give false impression such as that of the Constitution of India may be abolished or sold”.

The Opposition Congress leaders including Gandhi, so also other leaders of the INDIA bloc, have made that claim about the constitution in rallies based on some BJP leaders’ claim to that effect from time to time, particularly this past March when a senior leader of the BJP had claimed that it needed to cross the 400 mark in parliament in these elections to be able to “change the Constitution”.

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