Election Commission has indicted the BJP for issuing the contentious CD allegedly containing inflammatory electioneering material for UP Assembly polls while further triggering a debate on its power to derecognise political parties for violating the model code of conduct.
The EC has directed the saffron party to make an "unequivocal and unambiguous" declaration, strongly condemning the contents of the CD. At the same time the panel through an order reserved its right to take further action under para 16A (power of commission to suspend or withdraw recognition of a political party) of the Symbols Order after the completion of investigations in UP. The state election authorities had registered FIRs against BJP for releasing the CD.
Further, the EC held that the CD’s contents "deserved to be condemned in the strongest term as these were grossly violative of the principles of secularism, socialism and democracy". It has also rejected the rival parties’ demand for a CBI probe on the ground that the power to seek such a probe rested with the state government.
Accepting the argument forwarded by senior BJP leader Arun Jaitely that para 16A of the Symbol Order was still to be judicially tested, the panel rejected the demand for the party’s derecognition. Significantly, the CEC N Gopalaswami in an interview to the HT on Friday had disclosed that he has sought more powers for the panel to bring clarity on the derecognition issue.
Challenging the BJP’s contention on para 16A, during the course of hearings, Congress counsel and senior party leader Kapil Sibal had described it as an "argument of desperation”.
The 21-page order noted the statements of senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Kalyan Singh and Lalji Tandon stating that there was nothing offensive in the CD and in turn supported its contents. The Commission observed that "this has created a doubt--a genuine doubt--in the minds of the general public whether BJP has disowned the CD and condemned its contents or stand by its comments".
The commission also directed the BJP to widely publicise its condemnation of the CD, both through the print and the electronic media, after receiving the EC’s order. In turn, the BJP is required to submit a compliance report to the commission within 15 days.