Model code Violation: EC makes two U-turns in 24 hours

Returning officer first says SAD candidate held rally without nod, then says permission taken, now says notice sent

Written by KAMALDEEP SINGH BRAR | Manochahal Kalan | Published: January 13, 2017 6:14 am
Punjab election news, Punjab news, Punjab election code violations, Punjab elections news, India news, National news, India news, National news Chief Election Commissioner Dr Nasim Zaidi addresses the media in Chandigarh Thursday. Jasbir Malhi

ELECTION COMMISSION officials made two U-turns in the last 24 hours while probing the alleged violation of the model code of conduct by sitting SAD MLA and Khadoor Sahib Assembly constituency candidate Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, who held a rally in Manochahal Kalan village Tuesday afternoon, allegedly without permission.

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Initially, Returning Officer and Subdivisional Magistrate (SDM) Amandeep Kaur on Tuesday claimed a case had been registered against the SAD candidate’s aide for not having permission for the rally. When the Tarn Taran police claimed Brahmpura had permission, the SDM said she had wrong information and that EC had covered and videotaped the rally.

However, making another U-turn on Wednesday, Kaur said the commission had no video of the rally and a notice was issued to SAD for code violation. It was not only about permission.

The crowd, mostly women, were given the call to attend this rally along with the promise of free cylinders under some government scheme and necessary documents were collected from them by an Akali sarpanch at the end of the rally. Moreover, the candidate also told the crowd at the rally that he would make a phone call to the officials concerned and wheat under the Atta Dal scheme would be distributed.

According to rules, every candidate needs the EC’s permission to hold a rally so that commission officials can send a team to keep account of election expenditure and code ethics.

SDM on Tuesday evening said, “Actually, it was violation of election code of conduct to hold the rally without permission. We had informed the police and took necessary action.”

So, has a case been registered against the candidate? Kaur said, “No, it is not against the candidate. I think one accused is school principal and there is one more person. I don’t have names because I was busy in meetings all day.”

Station House Officer Sadar Inspector Darvesh Chopra said, “No FIR was registered. They had the permission. Ask the SDM to talk to her officials. They showed me permission and no case was registered.” When asked if the RO had wrong information, Chopra said, “Yes.”

When contacted again on Wednesday, the SDM said, “I initially had wrong information. They had permission and our officials covered it and have a video of the rally.”

When The Indian Express contested her claim, she asked for more time to check. Later, Kaur made a U-turn, saying, “I have cross-checked again. We have no video and complaint against rally was true and I have issued notice to the party for breach of code.”

According to the letter of permission submitted to police, the rally began around 2 pm and concluded at 2:45 pm. In reality, Brahmpura reached the venue before around 1:30 pm and left at 2:05 pm.

Also, the venue of the rally has been mentioned as residence of some Avtar Singh.

The Indian Express has visual of the rally being held on the premises of a public school just outside the village. There were no EC officials at the venue.

Other violations

Not a common scene at election rallies in villages, women were in majority in Manochahal. All carried Aadhaar card and other proof as they had been promised benefits under some government scheme.

The Indian Express has video evidence of sarpanch Balwant Singh collecting documents from the women at the rally for distribution of gas cylinders. Brahmpura said in his speech cylinder was a small thing. He told the crowd that Congress and AAP had lodged complaints with EC against distribution of wheat under Atta Dal scheme.

The RO said, “I have related photographs and took action accordingly. I have no information about cylinders.”

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