The Supreme Court today (Monday, April 29) agreed to urgently hear a Congress petition about the Election Commission of India (ECI) not taking action on continued hate speeches and misuse of the armed forces as political propaganda by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.
In one of the most direct attacks against the EC, the 146-page petition said there was one set of rules for Modi and Shah, and another for the rest of the candidates.
The Congress sought directions to the poll body to decide on such complaints within 24 hours.
A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said it will hear the Congress’s plea on Tuesday.
Congress MP Sushmita Dev said the Election Commission had not acted on the party’s complaints against PM Modi and Amit Shah for three weeks. The Congress petition said the EC’s continued silence on complaints about hate speeches and misuse of the armed forces as political propaganda by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah amounted to a “tacit endorsement” of their conduct.
The Congress said that 40 representations on violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) were moved in the ECI so far, but no action had been coming from the poll body, which should be devoted to the concept of free and fair elections in a democracy. The delay in action, the Congress said, was a deliberate action itself.
Dev said Modi and Shah used “hate speech” at rallies to polarise voters and referred to the operations by the armed forces in their political propaganda despite a ban on such speeches.
The Congress said PM Modi violated the model code with a speech at a rally in Gujarat on April 23, after he cast his vote and held a roadshow-type event.
The Congress alleged Amit Shah violated the election code by politicising the armed forces in election speeches.
The EC had last month categorically told political parties to desist from referring to actions taken by the military in their poll campaigns in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack and the Balakot air strikes earlier this year.
The Congress has alleged that despite such clear instructions, Modi and Shah repeatedly cited military operations undertaken by the armed forces under the BJP rule at election rallies.
The petition said that since March 10, when the general election was notified, Modi and Shah had “specifically in sensitive areas and States, ex-facie violated the provisions of the Representation of the People Act and the Election Rules and the process.”
It stated, “It is in public domain that they have indulged in hate speeches, repeatedly used the armed forces for political propaganda, despite a clear prohibition on the same by the ECI.”
PM Modi claimed at a campaign rally in Gujarat’s Surendranagar district on April 17 that his government had called Pakistan’s bluff after the Pulwama terror attack, which resulted in the death of 40 CRPF personnel on the Jammu-Srinagar highway on February 14. “Earlier terrorists from Pakistan would carry out attacks in our country and go back unscathed, threatening to launch their nuclear bombs if we retaliate. But we have the nuclear bomb of nuclear bombs. I told them to do what they want (but we will retaliate),” said Modi.
The Congress petition narrated how “the Prime Minister in blatant violation of the MCC held a rally on the day of polling in Gujarat on April 23, 2019 i.e. date of voting for the third phase of the election.”
The petition detailed the various reported utterances of the Prime Minister that allegedly violated the MCC, from portraying Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s choice of Wayanad as “a seat where the minority is majority” to the calling for votes in the names of the CRPF soldiers killed in a terrorist attack in Pulwama, Kashmir.
Amit Shah claimed at a public meeting in Bihar’s Sitamarhi on Sunday that the Modi government had secured the country’s borders and made national security its main priority. “India is only the third country after Israel and United States to have retaliated to terrorism in this brave manner,” he said.
The Congress in its petition said, “Inaction on the part of the ECI is a sign of invidious discrimination and is arbitrary, capricious and impermissible… certain selected very powerful individuals have been permitted to gain an unfair electoral advantage by their material infractions of the RP Act, Election Rules and the MCC.”
Such brazen violations were neither minor nor procedural, in any manner, it added.
Recounting how leaders like Mayawati were banned from campaigning for 72 hours for violating the MCC, the petition said that the lack of action against the Prime Minister and the BJP president despite cogent evidences, representations and exhortations to the ECI “demonstrates abdication and indecision and a complete absence of justice, in ensuring a level playing field in ensuing General Elections for the Lok Sabha.”
It said, “The inactions, omissions and commissions by the Respondent/ECI are in complete and direct violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution and which are impeding free, fair and unbiased General Elections, 2019.”