New Delhi: The Election Commission on Wednesday issued notice to Congress president Rahul Gandhi asking why action should not be taken against him for violating the Representation of the People Act, hours after several TV channels aired his interview on Gujarat polls.
Taking action on a complaint from the BJP’s Gujarat unit, the Commission instructed Mr. Gandhi to furnish his response by 5 p.m. on December 18. The notice has been issued for “prima facie” violation of Section 126(1) (b) of the Act by Mr. Gandhi as he gave such an interview.
In a separate order to the Gujarat Chief Election Officer, invoking the same provision, the Commission directed registration of FIRs against all the media houses for airing the interview. The TV channels were also directed to stop airing the interview immediately.
The EC said the action was being initiated as such an interview fell within the definition of “election matter” as provided in Section 126(1)(b) of the Act. Display of such an election matter within 48 hours ahead of the second phase of the assembly polls in Gujarat amounts to violation of the provision, said the Commission.
The EC order drew a sharp reaction from the Congress party, with its communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala tweeting “new norms of justice by ECI”. He said a delegation led by Congress leader Ashok Gehlot will visit the EC office late on Wednesday evening.
Mr. Surjewala said while FIR was being registered against TV channels for showing Mr. Gandhi’s interview, why no such action was being taken against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and BJP president Amit Shah on the same ground.
He said Mr. Jaitley had released the party manifesto in Ahmedabad on December 8; Mr. Modi held four public meetings on December 9; and Mr. Shah did a press conference in Ahmedabad on Wednesday.
The BJP had earlier lodged a complaint with the Commission seeking action. “As per the Model Code of Conduct, such interviews are not permitted. We’ve learnt from the EC too that 48 hours in the run-up to polls, interviews can’t be given. Is Congress so insecure? Only Rahul Gandhi can answer,” said BJP leader and Union Minister Piyush Goyal.
On the other hand, the Congress accused Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Gujarat BJP Chief Jitubhai Vaghani of making threat calls to media houses for airing Mr. Gandhi’s interview.