Union Minister and senior BJP leader Maneka Gandhi’s remark that she will not be inclined to help Muslims if they do not vote for her in the upcoming polls is likely to be scrutinised in context of the Model Code of Conduct set in place ahead of and during elections in India.
Paragraph 1 the Model Code of Conduct forbids parties and candidates from indulging in “any activity which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic”.
Invoking religion to seek votes, or making statements to the effect of creating disharmony between two communities, is a violation of the poll conduct and may invite prosecution under Section 125 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (Promoting enmity between classes in connection with election), Sections 153A, 153B, l7lC, 295A and 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code and Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1988.
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With the UP poll office taking note of Maneka’s speech, the district administration has served her a notice.
In a video of her address, Maneka can be heard telling an audience of Muslim voters in Gaurabarik village in Sultanpur: “Mei jeet rahi hoon, mei jeet rahi hoon… Logon ki madad, logon ke pyaar se, mei jeet rahi hoon. Lekin agar meri jeet Musalmano ke bina hogi, toh mujhe bahot achha nahin lagega. Kyunki itna mei bata deti hoon, ki phir dil khatta ho jata hai, phir jab Musalman aata hai kaam ke liye, phir mei sochti hoon rehne hi do, kya fark padta hai. Aakhir naukri ek saudabaazi bhi toh hoti hai, baat sahi hai ki nahin? Yeh nahin ki hum log sab Mahatma Gandhi ki chhati aulad hain. Ki hum log aaye aur kewal dete hi jayenge, dete hi jayenge. Aur phir election mein maar khaate jayenge (I am winning the election… With the help and love of people. But if I win without help from Muslims, the feelings are soured. Then when Muslims come seeking jobs, I will think let it be, what difference does it make? After all, jobs are a kind of trade. We are not like Mahatma Gandhi — that we will keep on giving, and then keep getting beaten in elections.”) Sultanpur, which goes to polls on May 12, has around 17.57 lakh voters, of which roughly 4 lakh are Muslim.”
In 2018, the Kerala High Court had disqualified Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) Azhikode MLA K.M. Shaji on a plea that had he used religion to win the Assembly polls in 2016. He was disqualified for six years and the EC asked to take appropriate action.
The Election Commission, which oversees the enforcement of the Model code of conduct, has, on previous occasions, taken action against political leaders for using religion in their appeal for votes, including BJP chief Amit Shah. The BJP president was found in violation of the Model Code of Conduct during campaigning for the Lok Sabha Elections 2014. Shah, the EC noted, was “indulging in some highly inflammatory speeches, which had the effect of promoting feelings of enmity, hatred and ill-will and creating disharmony between different religious communities on the ground of religion.” The EC asked Uttar Pradesh to initiate criminal proceedings against Shah and censored his speech. He was also disallowed from attending any further public meetings. Following an unconditional apology by Singh, the EC let him off and permitted him to address election rallies.
Samajwadi Party’s Azam Khan, who was also in violation of the Model Code of Conduct for attempting to create disharmony between two religions, was also disallowed to attend public meetings, but since he did not submit his apology, ban on his public meetings, etc. continued during the entire remaining period of that general election.
The Election Commission has also issued a showcause notice to BSP supremo Mayawati for her appeal to Muslim voters and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for his “Ali-Bajrang Bali” remark for this year’s Lok Sabha elections.
For 2019, the Election Commission has a full portal displaying all recorded violations during campaign. The page is updated daily.