In Poll Body's Notices Over Speeches By PM, Rahul Gandhi, A Big Question

In both cases, the Election Commission press releases do not name the leaders - Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi.

In Poll Body's Notices Over Speeches By PM, Rahul Gandhi, A Big Question

The Election Commission has issued notices to BJP and Congress over PM Modi and Rahul Gandhi's speeches

New Delhi:

As the Election Commission issued notices to the leaderships of the BJP and Congress over complaints received in connection to political speeches made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, many questioned why the poll body did not address the leaders directly, choosing to flag the matter to the party chiefs.

In both cases, the Election Commission press releases do not name the leaders - Prime Minister Modi or Mr Gandhi. The rival complaints against them are attached to the poll body's notice.

What EC Says

In its notice, the Election Commission underlines the role of star campaigners in the election campaign. It says star campaigners are "expected to contribute to a higher quality of discourse, inter alia, by way of providing an all-India perspective, which sometimes gets distorted in the heat of the contests at the local level".

"Thus, the expectation from Star Campaigners is to provide corrective action or a sort of healing touch, when intensity of local campaign disrupts or inadvertently crosses over such boundaries. The Star Campaigners are thus expected to utilize this privilege for "propagating the programme of the political parties" and, therefore, their speeches in the campaign space necessarily needs to be judged at a higher threshold of compliance," it says.

Holding the political party primarily responsible for star campaigners, the poll body says, "Whereas, in view of the foregoing and the plenary power of the political parties to nominate or withdraw the star campaigner's status with associated responsibility and authority to control their star campaigns, the Commission has taken a view that while the individual star campaigner would continue to remain responsible for speeches made, the Commission will address party President/Head of the political party, on case-to-case basis." BJP chief JP Nadda and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge have been asked to respond by 11 am on Friday.

What is Congress's Complaint

The Congress's complaint, dated April 21 and filed by party leader Randeep Singh Surjewala, flags Prime Minister Modi's speech in Banswara, Rajasthan, the same day.

Accusing the Congress of a hatching a wealth redistribution plan, the Prime Minister said in the rally, "What Congress has said in its manifesto is serious. It has said that if the Congress forms the government, everyone's property will be surveyed, it will calculate gold belonging to mothers and sisters and then redistribute it. They won't even spare your mangalsutra," he said, adding that the Congress is now "in the grip of urban Naxals".

The Prime Minister alleged that when the Congress was in power under Dr Manmohan Singh, it had said Muslims have the first right on the country's wealth. "This means that they will gather this property and distribute it among people who have more children, among infiltrators. Will your hard-earned money be given to infiltrators? Do you accept this? The Congress manifesto is saying this."

The Congress has accused the Prime Minister of making "false and divisive insinuations targeted at a particular religious community and a clear provocation to the general public to act out and breach peace, potentially against such a religious community". It has also alleged that the Prime Minister tried to mislead voters by making false and unverified allegations and to "falsely tarnish the sacrifices and legacy of an almost hundred and 140-year-old party" for "petty political gains".

What Is BJP's Complaint

In its April 19 complaint filed by Om Pathak, the BJP flagged a speech by Rahul Gandhi in Kerala's Kottayam the previous day. "....... If a daughter graduates from a university, her parents congratulate in Malayalam. When a brother loses the other brother, he communicates in Malayalam. Thus, Kerala is Malayalam, Malayalam is Kerala. I get surprised when I hear PM giving speeches where he says one nation, one language, and one religion. How can you tell people of Tamil to not speak Tamil, people of Kerala to not speak Malayalam, people... Every single Indian language is as important as any other language. BJP does this with language, place, caste and religion. Whenever they get an opportunity, they divide the country...," the Congress leader is quoted as saying.

The BJP accused Mr Gandhi of trying to "create linguistic and cultural divide in the minds of the people of India for electoral gains". It also accused the Congress leader of trying to "tarnish the Prime Minister, defame him and indulge in his character assassination".

The BJP's complaint also targets Mr Kharge, accusing him of misleading voters by declaring that the BJP is going to change the Constitution if it wins the election.

Recent Precedents

Earlier this month, the Election Commission of India issued showcause notices to Congress leader Supriya Shrinate for social media posts targeting BJP candidate and actor Kangana Ranaut. The same day, a notice was issued to BJP MP from West Bengal Dilip Ghosh for derogatory remarks against Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee.

Prior to that, showcause notices were issued to AAP leader Atishi and Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala. Atishi was pulled up for allegations that the BJP had approached her to switch over, and Mr Surjewala over his remark on actor-politician Hema Malini.

In all these cases, the Election Commission addressed its notices directly to the leaders in question. Another notice issued to Bharat Rashtra Samithi chief K Chandrashekar Rao was also addressed directly to the former Chief Minister.