EC seeks responses from Congress and BJP following complaints against Modi, Kharge, Rahul Gandhi

Opposition parties had complained to the EC accusing Narendra Modi of delivering a divisive and defamatory speech in Rajasthan's Banswara.

BySouth First Desk

Published Apr 25, 2024 | 2:56 PMUpdatedApr 25, 2024 | 2:56 PM

Election Commission of India (ECI) (Wikimedia Commons)

The Election Commission (EC) took cognisance for the first time of a Model Code Violation allegation against a prime minister on Thursday, 25 April. It has asked the BJP to respond to complaints filed by Opposition parties, albeit without naming Narendra Modi.

The Commission cautioned “star campaigners” of political parties, without naming them, to “set high standards of political discourse and observe provisions of model code of conduct in letter and spirit”.

The poll panel also sent a letter to the Congress over the BJP’s complaint against its president Mallikarjun Kharge and former president Rahul Gandhi for “spreading baseless allegations against Narendra Modi” and the BJP during different public meetings.

Opposition parties had complained to the EC, accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of delivering a divisive and defamatory speech in Rajasthan’s Banswara.

At the same time, the poll panel also asked Congress to respond to complaints filed by the BJP against the main Opposition party’s president, Mallikarjun Kharge, and its senior leader, Rahul Gandhi, regarding their respective remarks.

In its letter addressed to BJP president JP Nadda, the Election Commission asked him to respond by Monday to complaints filed by the Congress, CPI and CPI (ML) regarding the remarks made by Modi on 21 April in Banswara.

The EC asked both parties to respond to the letter by 11 am on 29 April.

Also Read: Former civil servants endorse letter to ECI for action against PM Modi

‘Set high standards’

It also asked Nadda to bring to the notice of all star campaigners of the party to “set high standards of political discourse and observe provisions of model code of conduct in letter and spirit”.

Officials said it is the first time the panel has taken cognisance of a complaint against any prime minister. The Election Commission has invoked provisions of the Representation of the People Act to hold party presidents as the first step to rein in star campaigners.

Asking Congress star campaigner to maintain a higher quality of discourse, the EC said, “…in view of the foregoing and the plenary power of the political parties to nominate or withdraw the star campaigner’s status with associated responsibility and authority to control their star campaigners, the Commission has taken a view that while the individual star campaigner would continue to remain responsible for speeches made, the Commission will address party president/head of the political party, on case-to-case basis.”

The letters from the EC to the two-party presidents did not directly name either Modi, Gandhi or Kharge. Still, the representations received by it were attached to the respective letters and they contained details of allegations against the three leaders.

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The complaints

In its complaint to the EC, the Congress said that Modi, in his speech, had alleged that Congress wanted to redistribute the wealth of the people to Muslims and that the opposition party won’t even spare the ‘mangalsutra’ of women.

“On 21.04.2024, the Prime Minister, as a part of BJP’s election campaign for the Lok Sabha Elections, 2024, addressed a public rally of electors at Banswara, Rajasthan. While we have objections to the entire tone and tenor of the Prime Minister’s speech, in this representation, we wish to highlight the completely unprecedented and malicious allegations as well statements which are clearly aimed at creating enmity between groups, far worse than any ever made by a sitting Prime Minister in the history of India. This cannot go unchecked, unanswered and unpunished,” the Congress said.

The BJP, on the other hand, had written to EC that Gandhi levelled malafide and utterly sinister allegations against Modi during a speech in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu and Kottayam in Kerala.

“The utter falsehood of Shri Rahul Gandhi’s indiscreet and irresponsible utterances at Kottayam (Kerala) on 18.4.2024, insinuating Shri Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister, and levelling baseless allegations against him and declaring him an opponent of the fundamental concept of cultural, and linguistic, and religious variety and diversity, is exposed without a shadow of doubt from the solemn statements made by Shri Narendra Modi at multiple fora as a stateman championing the cause of cultural, linguistic, and religious diversity for a vibrant society conducive to India’s overall development. This is a brazen attempt to tarnish the Prime Minister, defame him, and indulge in his character assassination,” the BJP said in its complaint.

It also accused Kharge of violating the model code by claiming that he was not invited to the Ram temple consecration ceremony due to discrimination against SCs and STs.

In its complaint, the CPI said that Modi’s speech was highly objectionable.

“The speech delivered by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi at Banswara, Rajasthan, on 21st April 2024, during the 2024 Lok Sabha elections campaign is highly objectionable. The contents of public speech are clearly in violation to the Model Code of Conduct. The prime minister said in this speech, “Should your hard-earned money be given to those with more children?” This he was referring for Muslims,” the party said.

“Targeting of any particular community, the ECI will concur, stands in total violation of Section 123 (3) of the Representation of People’s Act and the Model Code of Conduct. Hence, our party request your office for immediate initiation of action against Narendra Modi for his hate speeches,” the CPI added.