Law minister Salman Khurshid, charged by the Election Commission (EC) with violating poll campaign norms, has strongly defended his assurances on increasing the reservation share for backward minorities to 9%, saying this was a party promise, not a policy announcement.
“Whatever I said is part of our party promise in the Congress manifesto, not personal allurement. It must reach the people,” Khurshid told HT.
This aside, Khurshid said, larger questions about the legality of the poll-time code of conduct arise if it undermined Article 19 (right to free speech). “How will this be a reasonable restriction on right to free speech?” he asked.
The poll regulator is of the view that since Khurshid’s pledge to give disadvantaged minorities, including Muslims, a 9% share in jobs and universities came before the release of his party’s election manifesto for the UP polls, it constituted a violation.
The minister, however, has argued that whatever he said would certainly figure in his party’s manifesto, since he oversaw its preparation. “As head of manifesto drafting committee, I am not supposed to know what the party policy is?” Khurshid asked.
“The The Other Backward Classes sub-quota is constitutionally valid as held in the Indira Sawhney’s case. We promised it in our UP Manifesto of 2007 and Lok Sabha Manifesto in 2009. We have fulfilled that promise as a central government and now can only reiterate our position for UP,” Khurshid said.
The minister said he spelt out his party’s agenda to attract the attention of voters, which is what electioneering was all about. “If I cannot do that I might as well not campaign.”