Rajya Sabha polls: Congress wants EC probe over alleged misuse of power in Gujarathttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/gujarat-rajya-sabha-polls-congress-wants-ec-probe-over-alleged-misuse-of-power-4773206/

Rajya Sabha polls: Congress wants EC probe over alleged misuse of power in Gujarat

A delegation of top Congress leaders met Chief Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Joti and demanded setting up of a high powered committee to enquire into charges of alleged electoral malpractices by the ruling party and to give a time-bound report

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Chief Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Joti (File)

The Congress on Saturday petitioned the EC demanding free and fair elections to the Rajya Sabha in Gujarat and a probe by a high powered panel over alleged misuse of power and authority by the ruling BJP. A delegation of top Congress leaders met Chief Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Joti and demanded setting up of a high powered committee to enquire into charges of alleged electoral malpractices by the ruling party and to give a time-bound report.

They also handed over a memorandum against use of money and muscle power by the ruling BJP state government in a bid to alter the Rajya Sabha poll result. “We demand to forthwith constitute a high powered committee of independent persons or officers to enquire into charges of money power, muscle power and blatant abuse of government machinery for purposes of engineering defection and resignations of INC MLAs.

“To direct the high powered committee to afford opportunity to all the MLAs who have been approached directly and indirectly with inducements of money and positions by the BJP, so that the allegations are duly recorded and substantiated for actions in accordance with law,” the memorandum demanded. The Congress delegation comprised of Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and party’s deputy leader Anand Sharma, Vivek K Tankha, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Manish Tewari.

Azad said the Centre and Gujarat government together are effecting defections of Congress MLAs in the wake of Rajya Sabha elections for the state and they are being threatened and lured through promises of tickets and money, and that the police and administration is being used for defections. “We expressed our regret to the Election Commission that such incidents are taking place in a state where the Prime Minister comes from. It is most unfortunate thing that the ruling party is indulging in weaning away Opposition MLAs. We have shifted our MLAs to Karnataka,” he told reporters.

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The Congress also demanded the EC take all such actions included cases against persons indulging in horse trading, inducements and abuse and misuse of power, irrespective of such persons being in high positions of power and authority. It also sought directions to transfer out of state and/or direct suspensions of all such officers including the tainted officer of Tapi district, SP NK Amin.

“We demanded termination of all those officers who were involved in it and who tried to adduct the MLAs. The officer who tried to abduct the MLA should be dismissed because his record is very poor and other officers involved should be suspended. Action should also be taken against the state government because it is making the officers do such things,” Azad said.

Anand Sharma said there was intimidation, use of money and muscle as well as “brazen abuse” of state power and the police. “How come a party (BJP) that has not enough MLAs to field a third candidate, steals the Congress MLAs. There cannot be a greater violation. Its an open assault on democracy”.

The delegation also sought to ensure and restrain the ruling state administration of Gujarat from misusing its state machinery for purposes of promotion and propagation of the ruling party’s political interest in the Rajya Sabha elections, specially in the context of its effort to wrest the third Rajya Sabha seat “for which it is awfully short of numbers, elections are not be won by hook or crook”.

They also brought to the EC’s notice that “the might of money and muscle power is currently in full display by the ruling BJP dispensation to engineer and manipulate defections/resignations”. The delegation alleged that their MLAs are being offered money and are being lured with position of power to defect and/or resign from the Congress.

“What is happening is there is murder of democracy in Gujarat. Earlier, the MLAs were threatened now the families of the legislators are being threatened for casting vote in a certain fashion on August 8. Such atrocity and sin and murder of democracy has never occurred,” Tewari said. They said it is beyond imagination that such machinations for defection and to seek resignation are happening in a state from where Union minister Smriti Irani and BJP president Amit Shah are candidates for the Rajya Sabha.

“The sanctity and purity of elections is the fundamental basis of a democracy. The Election Commission as watchdog of free and fair elections is duty bound to take immediate cognisance and direct registration of offences against persons indulging in wilful horse trading, inducements and abuse and misuse of power,” the memorandum said.