The Election Commission (EC) on Friday said there was “nothing particularly wrong” in the speech of BJP leader Amit Shah in which he reportedly described Azamgarh as “a base of terrorists”.
“I have seen the speech myself…he only said Azamgarh. We found nothing much. Our people have also seen the video. There is nothing particularly wrong in what he said,” Election Commissioner H S Brahma said here.
“We have given him (Shah) permission to speak and campaign again only after he had had expressed regret over his last statements and he promised to us that he will not do it again,” he said during an interaction with Indian Women Press Corps.
Responding to questions, the Commissioner said there were adequate provisions in the Representation of the People Act to check the menace of ‘hate speeches’.
The law clearly says that party candidates and leaders cannot make speeches in the name of caste, creed or community.
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“Honestly, as a citizen, I would say we don’t expect from anyone to speak such a kind of thing…that will hurt the feeling of someone,” he said.
Brahma said that from amongst the about 1,600 registered political parties in the country, “less than half-a-dozen” are indulging in violation of the law and deliverance of hate speeches.
“Only 3-4 parties are battle hardened (in violating election laws),” he said.
Brahma also said “suddenly” use of muscle power, in booth capturing and attacking polling personnel, have re-appeared, though not on a very large scale.
He enumerated recent instances of booth capturing and other poll related violence in parts of south India, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal.
“We have thought it (use of muscle power) had disappeared. But now we see it occurring in limited pockets. This needs to be nipped in the bud,” he said.
On the last round of polls on May 12, Brahma said it will be “tough” in terms of ensuring free and fair elections as the 41 seats in this phase are being “keenly fought” and it has been made a question of “life and death”.
He called the May 12 polling day as a “major combat.”
“We shall be very alert, active and aware about the developments during this phase of polls,” he said.
Brahma said the “biggest challenge” before the central poll body was “uniform implementation” of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
At the same time, he said “the speed at which the EC moved in implementing the MCC should have been faster”.
On the conduct of the elections, he said one of the best technologies of modern times is being used and “We are 100 miles ahead of most developing countries of the world…may be barring the US and North American countries.”
Smart phones have made it easier to check the proliferation of illegal inducements like liquor and cash distribution to the electorate, he said.
Brahma said till now 50.66 crore out of the total 83 crore voters have exercised their franchise.
“The percentage of voting has been on rise. It is close to 66 per cent and that has been our achievement,” he said.
The top EC official said it was time that women’s participation should be enhanced in all spheres of life including in elections.
“Definitely, there is a need to have more number of women as part of the system and in contesting elections too,” he said.
There should also be a woman Election Commissioner in the EC sooner than later, he suggested.
He also said black money and illegal money power being used in polls was the “main ingredient of creating a thorough non-level playing field (in the polls). In a democracy, it is highly warranted that it (illegal money power) should be averted,” he said.