- PM spoke about warning Pak of consequences over captured pilot
- Abhinandan Varthaman was caught by Pak after aerial battle in Feb
- All poll body decisions on complaints against PM so far have let him off
The Election Commission on Saturday gave Prime Minister Narendra Modi a clean chit for a speech delivered in Gujarat, where he claimed that his government had kept Pakistan on its toes to ensure the safe return of captured pilot Abhinandan Varthaman.
This was the sixth instance of the agency clearing PM Modi on charges of violating election rules.
The Election Commission, in this case, stated that the decision was taken after scrutinising a detailed report submitted by the Gujarat Chief Electoral Officer. "The matter has been examined in detail in accordance with extant advisories and provisions of the model code of conduct. After examining the matter, the commission has arrived at the view that no such violation of the extant advisories/provisions is attracted in this matter," it said.
In his Patan speech, PM Modi reportedly said that he had warned Pakistan of certain "consequences" if it does not return Wing Commander Varthaman, who was captured after an aerial dogfight with Pakistani F-16s that violated Indian airspace and targeted military installations earlier this year. He also spoke of a claim by the United States that India had kept 12 missiles ready in case the situation descended into a full-fledged confrontation.
On March 19, the Election Commission had issued an advisory asking parties to not invoke armed forces in their political campaign.
So far, the Election Commission has cleared six speeches of PM Modi, two of BJP president Amit Shah and one of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi. However, NDTV has learnt that not all clean chits issued to PM Modi and Amit Shah were passed unanimously by the Election Commission.
A high-ranking source in the Election Commission told NDTV that on five occasions, one of the three commissioners dissented with the majority view to let PM Modi and Amit Shah off the hook for their comments. The three-member "full commission" of the Election Commission comprises Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and the two election commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra.
In what is likely to create controversy, no formal orders were issued by the election body on complaints where there was dissent by one of the commissioners. "Maybe because there was dissent in the full commission meeting while giving clean chits to PM Modi and Amit Shah, the commission would have avoided an order giving reasons for the clean chit," a former Chief Election Commissioner told NDTV.