Senior BJP leaders had seen the controversial CD in Lucknow and suggested cuts before release. But these were not carried out, say BJP officials.
The party officials, speaking on condition on anonymity, said senior leaders who saw it included UP BJP chief Kesari Nath Tripathi and BJP secretary Prabhat Jha. They had wanted the controversial portions cut before the CD was released.
The CD was made by Archana Talwar, a friend of BJP spokesperson Manoj Mishra. Talwar is also convenor of the local cultural cell. They were told by the senior leaders to carry out the deletions. The BJP has since relieved Mishra from the post, BJP officials.
But, on April 3, when the CD was ready for release, the senior leaders assumed the deletions had been carried out as directed by them. Mishra had even told them that it had been done.
Senior BJP leader Lalji Tandon was asked to release the CD as Tripathi was away from Lucknow and TV actor Smriti Irani did not turn up for the function.
Tandon had not seen the final version of the CD either. With the party finding itself in a soup, senior BJP leaders are livid that an authorized version was found its way to the media. BJP president Rajnath Singh, who is away campaigning, was not even aware that the CD was to be distributed.
In a bid to save itself, the BJP told the Election Commission on Friday that the circulation of the controversial CD did not warrant action against it under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order because “it was an act of an individual and not prepared and distributed by the party.”
“The BJP has not produced, prepared, displayed or distributed the impugned CD. The CD does not form a part of official campaign material of BJP,” party’s vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi wrote to the Chief Election Commissioner in response to a show-cause notice asking the BJP to say why it should not be de-recognised and the lotus symbol frozen.
He said “The party cannot be held responsible for an unauthorized act of an individual and every publicity material of the party bears name of the party, symbol and name of the publisher. The expunged CD bears nothing of this.”
Naqvi said, though Tandon displayed certain campaign material to the media which was an integral part of the party’s campaign at a press Conference in Lucknow on April 3, “the impugned CD, which was not prepared by the party but by some individuals, was put in kit by someone in the office.”
Assuring the EC of the BJP’s commitment to the Model Code, Naqvi said the BJP inquired into the matter and removed Manoj Mishra from the responsibility of a spokesperson. As this mistake was brought to the notice of BJP and Tandon, the party on its own withdrew the CD, saying it was not a part of the campaign material.
The party now awaits the verdict of the EC in face of growing demands from its rivals for strict against the BJP.