EC gives clean chit to PM Modi over Wardha speech row

Prime minister Narendra Modi speaks during an election rally in Mumbai, India, Friday, April 26, 2019. (AP Photo/File)

The Election Commission Tuesday gave a clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his April 1st speech at Wardha. While referring to Rahul Gandhi’s decision to also contest from Kerala’s Wayanad constituency, PM Modi had said the Congress was taking "refuge in areas where the majority is in minority".

The latest development came hours after The Indian Express reported that the full Commission had not held a single deliberation since April 5 on the alleged violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) by PM Modi. Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court had sought the poll watchdog’s response on a plea by a Congress MP alleging MCC violations by Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah over their alleged hate speeches and using armed forces for "political propaganda".

The first Congress complaint against Modi's speech at an election rally was received by the Commission on April 5. Since then, the EC had received four more complaints from the Congress and one from the CPM against the PM's remarks at poll rallies.

The petition, filed by Silchar MP and Congress leader Sushmita Dev, said "since March 10, 2019 i.e. the date on which General Elections 2019, were notified, the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi and the BJP President, Mr Amit Shah, specifically in sensitive areas and States, have ex-facie violated the provisions of the RP Act and the Election Rules and the process, thereof."

Dev stated that the "inaction" by the poll panel "is a tacit endorsement of the statements and clean chit to the inpiduals whose statements and actions are ex facie in violation of the provisions of the RP (Representation of the People) Act and the Election Rules 1961 including the MCC".

In the petition, submitted by a delegation led by senior leader Abhishek Singhvi, the Congress has listed five previous statements by Modi, which the party claims were in violation of the EC's directive to desist from using defence forces in any political propaganda, and on which the "Commission has taken no action till date". The petition notes that Modi made these remarks in Wardha (on April 1), Nanded (April 6), Latur (April 9), Patan (April 21), and Barmer (April 21).

On Monday, the Congress had moved the EC once again and had said poll panel's ostensible "hands-off policy", when it comes to Modi and Shah violating the election code of conduct, seems to have led the duo to take this "silence" as a "tacit stamp of approval or endorsement". The party had approached the apex court in connection with the case.