The Election Commission on Wednesday issued a show cause notice to Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi for giving an interview to a Gujarati channel, a day before the second phase of polls, in violation of the model code of conduct. The EC has asked Gandhi to reply by December 18. “Explain why action should not be taken against you for violating provisions of MCC, failing which Commission will decide matter without any further reference to you,” said EC.
The Election Commission also directed the Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat to register an FIR against all the media houses for airing the interview of Rahul Gandhi, which was a violation of the Representation of the People Act. The EC said that all the TV channels that violated the provisions of Section 126(1)(b) have been directed to stop airing the interview immediately.
In a press statement this evening, the poll panel said Gandhi, the Congress president-elect, talked about the Gujarat Assembly elections in which the polling for the second phase will be held tomorrow.
“Such display falls within the definition of “election matter” under Section 126 (3) of Representation of the People Act, 1951 and display of such election matter within 48 hours ending with hour fixed for conclusion of poll in the poll-going areas, amounts to violation of Section 126 (1)(b) of Representation of the People Act, 1951,” it said.
The statement said after due deliberations, the EC has directed the Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat “to initiate necessary action by filing FIR against those who have violated the above mentioned provisions in phase two districts in Gujarat”.
“Further, those TV channels which are violating the provisions of Section 126 (1)(b] by displaying said election matter in phase two district in Gujarat have been directed to forthwith stop the display of such matter,” it said.
After Gandhi targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his interview, the BJP had attacked the new Congress chief saying he was not even permitted to give an interview in the last 48 hours of campaigning in Gujarat. “It was not permitted to give an interview in the last 48 hours of campaigning in Gujarat. I am sure the Election Commission will take cognizance of this and take an action,” senior BJP leader and union minister Piyush Goyal said.
Congress in retaliation accused BJP of using “EC as a tool for its political gains.” Addressing a press conference, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala accused BJP of allegedly threatening journalists. “When Congress President-elect Rahul Gandhi gave interviews to a few Gujarati news channels, BJP, in the name of Election Commission, threatened to jail the journalists of those channels for broadcasting it. We condemn this arrogant behavior of BJP,” he said.
A fuming Congress said in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Modi had showed the BJP symbol on voting day but the EC didn’t act. Slamming the double standards of the poll watchdog, Surjewala said, “In 2014 elections, Modi ji even showed BJP symbol on voting day but the EC didn’t act. BJP held a press conference just before 1st phase of Gujarat elections. These double standards won’t work and the first FIR should be filed against PM Modi and other BJP leaders instead of the media.”
Gandhi in an interview to Gujarat Samachar TV said, “This election is not about Rahul Gandhi or Narendra Modi. This is about the voice of Gujarat. They are not talking about real issues. There is no talk about Gujarat’s vikas. Instead, they insulted Manmohan Singh.”
He also continued his attack against PM Modi over GST, demonetisation and also accused the party of evading important questions related to the development of Gujarat.
The second phase of Gujarat polls will take place on December 14.