New Delhi: The Election Commission has let off Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela with a caution for making hate speeches in Surat during the poll campaign in Gujarat and asked him to be careful in future.
The poll panel's meeting, chaired by Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath, decided on the action against Mr Vaghela after issuing a notice to him for making hate speeches in poll-bound Gujarat that made references to post-Godhra violence.
The Commission's action came after considering Mr Vaghela's November 20 reply where he recorded his "deepest regrets" and remorse for utterance of objectionable words in his speech.
"The Election Commission, in view of the aforementioned explanation, particularly his deepest regrets, hereby cautions him to be careful in future," the order said.
The Commission had received a complaint from the BJP against Mr Vaghela, following which the CD and transcript of his speeches were examined.
The reports of Chief Electoral Officer, Gujarat, District Election Officer, Surat and Returning Officer, Udhna Assembly Constituency had also said that Mr Vaghela has violated the Model Code of Conduct by inciting the communal feelings of the people through his speech made at a public meeting at BRC Gate ground, Surat on October 31.
The Model Code provides that "No party or candidate shall indulge in any activity which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic."
Mr Vaghela, in his speech had said, "Godhra tragedy occurred. The train compartment was burnt. You People try to understand this conspiracy...Massacre was planned to get votes of the Hindus..."
He also said, "One Maulvi with a long beard was embraced by him and the Maulvi got delighted. I said, 'Maulavi Saheb, this is not a sign of love or affection. He is merely measuring your neck, so that when the time comes it should be available without any effort."
Mr Vaghela, in his replies to the poll panel notice, had denied having violated the provisions of Model Code or of the election laws.
After considering his reply, the Commission noted that Mr Vaghela "has not denied the speech or having uttered the objectionable words, particularly the words referred to in this order and therefore, the explanation of Shri Shankersinh Vaghela has not been found to be satisfactory."
Promoting feelings of enmity, hatred and ill-will between different classes of citizens of India on the grounds of religion, race, caste or community is an electoral offence under Section 125 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 and Sections 153A, 295A and 505(2) of IPC.
Mr Vaghela, who has earlier been with the BJP before switching his loyalty to the Congress, is also the chairman of Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC).
Gujarat goes to polls in two phases on December 13 and 17. The counting of votes will take place on December 20.