Nadda, Kharge defend campaign methods; seek action on complaints lodged: EC

Mallikarjun Kharge,  J P Nadda
Mallikarjun Kharge, J P Nadda

New Delhi | BJP president J P Nadda and Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge have "stoutly" defended before the Election Commission their respective party's campaigning method and utterances of their star campaigners.

They have also sought action by the poll panel on the complaints lodged by their parties against each other during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

Responding to the show-cause notices issued by Election Commission (EC) to them over complaints of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) violations by their top leaders, Nadda and Kharge have made no "explicit denial of facts", the panel noted.

In separate letters to Nadda and Kharge, the commission on Wednesday issued directions to the two national parties asking them not to make utterances on communal lines, not to make statements which give a false impression such as that the Constitution of India may be abolished or sold, and also not to politicise the armed forces.

The EC also referred to the responses of the two leaders in its communication to them.

According to the poll authority, Nadda said the statements of his party's star campaigners rely on facts to expose the "mal-intent" of the Congress to the nation.

He told the EC that the intent of the star campaigners is to draw public attention and to expose the emerging intention and inclination of the Congress and, thus, the utterances are based completely on facts, the commission said citing Nadda's reply to it.

Nadda then alleged that the Congress and the INDIA bloc, in pursuant of vote bank politics, have begun opposing India as a nation, its identity, its original Hindu religion, Sanatan and the fact of India being the oldest culture in the world, according to the EC.

He also cited the fact of no clarification by INDIA bloc leaders that they hold any ill will to followers of Hinduism and Sanatan, and those who believe in Indian culture and identity, it said citing his letter.

The EC in its communication to the BJP chief said, "Therefore, you conclude that opposing the nation and its beliefs and its identity for voter gain is not an outcome of wholesome thought and, hence, you have revealed it to the public."

According to the commission, Nadda invoked a statement that alleges use of the term "Shakti" in a condemnable manner.

"You then go on to explain (that) the 'Shakti' in Hindu religion to assert that those who 'oppose' 'Shakti' are committing a wholesome insult to a large number of Hindus, which is unacceptable to the BJP. Thus, in your assessment, any attempt to bring the above facts to the notice of the public can't be a violation of law or MCC," the EC said citing his reply.

According to the EC, in his response, Congress chief Kharge attempted to list out the "repeated and more egregious violations that the BJP and its leaders continue to commit with impunity".

Kharge attached a chart which his party has collated as an "indicative list" of "malicious statements" made despite show cause notice issued by the EC.

Kharge alleged that a "pattern" had been planned by the BJP to adopt a "false rhetoric" to spread misinformation and fuel communal discord within society, according to the EC.

"Each and every statement of star campaigners on behalf of the INC (Congress) are well-justified substantiating the authenticity and genuineness of speakers' statements and discredits any malafide or ill will on their part to create social tensions within society as claimed by the BJP...," Kharge wrote.

'Wholly bogus equivalence': Congress slams EC's direction

New Delhi | After the EC asked both BJP and Congress on Wednesday to correct campaign discourse, the Congress accused the poll panel of "showing undue deference to the party in power" and claimed that statements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are in no way comparable to those made by its leaders.

"Level-playing playing field cannot mean drawing a wholly bogus equivalence," Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said.

The party was reacting after the Election Commission directed the BJP leaders to refrain from making speeches on religious and communal lines and asked the opposition Congress not to make potentially divisive statements on the socio-economic composition of the armed forces.

In a post on X, Ramesh alleged that the statements made by PM Modi and Shah using "religion in political campaigning" are a blatant violation of the model code and against Supreme Court judgements.

He said, in turn, the Congress leaders are only campaigning to protect the constitutional rights of Dalits, tribals and backwards.

"The ECI's directions to both the INC and BJP complaints are a perfect example of how a Constitutional body is abdicating its responsibilities and showing undue deference to the party in power for the moment," he alleged in a post on X.

"The sheer brazenness of the statements of the outgoing PM and his senior colleagues like the outgoing HM can in no way be compared to the statements made by leaders of the Congress against which complaints have been lodged. Level-playing playing field cannot mean drawing a wholly bogus equivalence," Ramesh also said.

"The statements of the outgoing PM especially are blatant violations of the EC's Model Code of Conduct and also of various Supreme Court judgments on the misuse of religion in political campaigning," Ramesh said in his post.

He also claimed that the Congress is campaigning to protect the constitutional right of Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs to reservations and asked, "How on Earth can this be called casteist?"

The Election Commission on Wednesday came down heavily on the ruling BJP and opposition Congress.

Noting that the country's socio-cultural milieu cannot be made a casualty to elections, it told BJP president J P Nadda and Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge that utterances of star campaigners follow patterns and create narratives that can be damaging beyond the model code period.

Referring to their respective replies to the notices issued to them on April 25, the election authority said that "technical loopholes or extreme interpretations of other political party's utterances" cannot discharge the parties and their campaigners from the core responsibility of their own content which ought to be corrective to the ongoing discourse "and not further plummeting the quality of campaign discourse".

It reminded the two parties of provisions of the model code which state that no party or candidate will be involved in any activity that may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic.

Nadda was issued the notice on opposition charge that Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a divisive speech in Rajasthan's Banswara.

In his reply to the notice, Nadda had maintained that the statements of BJP's star campaigners rely on facts to expose the "mal intent" of the Congress to the nation.

He had also told the EC that the Congress and the INDIA bloc, in pursuance of vote-bank politics, have begun "opposing India as a nation, its identity, its original Hindu religion".

The poll watchdog rejected Nadda's defence describing it as "not tenable" and asked him and his party's star campaigners to desist from campaigning on religious and communal lines. It also asked the BJP to stop campaign speeches that may divide society.

"The Commission expects BJP, as the ruling party at the Centre to fully align the campaign methods to the practical aspects of the composite and sensitive fabric of India," the EC said.

Along with Nadda, the EC had issued a similar notice to Kharge, asking him to respond to the complaints filed by the BJP against him and the party's senior leader Rahul Gandhi regarding their remarks.

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