The Gujarat administration on Wednesday filed two FIRs against BJP's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi on orders of the Election Commission (EC) after he delivered a politically charged speech and displayed his party's symbol, lotus, in violation of the poll code soon after exercising his franchise in Gandhinagar. A police complaint was also lodged against TV channels.
Crime branch of the Ahmedabad Police will investigate the matter. The Gujarat administration has also sent a compliance report to the poll panel.
Congress' legal department secretary KC Mittal lodged a complaint with the poll body, saying Modi's speech and display of symbol violated the Representation of the People (RP) Act and demanded an FIR be registered against him.
Asking the state administration to furnish a compliance report earlier, the poll body said, "The commission is of the view that by holding that meeting and also by addressing the same today when the polling is going on in the entire state of Gujarat and in different parts of the country, Narendra Modi has violated the provisions of sections 126 (1)(a) and 126 (l)(b) of RP Act 1951."
Though it is a normal practice for top leaders to make brief statements before the media after casting their votes, what irked Modi's rivals was a high-voltage speech in which he slammed the Congress.
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The BJP's prime ministerial nominee also clicked a selfie prominently displaying the party symbol and posted it on Twitter. After casting his vote, Modi not only fervently asked the electorate to support the BJP but also said the Congress had already accepted defeat.
Acting tough, the EC said all the TV channels that carried the proceedings of the meeting and displayed the election matter should also be booked under Section 126 (l) (b) "by filing separate complaints/FlRs against those channels".
According to the Section 126 (1) (a) and (b) of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, public meetings are prohibited during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for conclusion of polling.
It also says "no person shall… display to the public any election matter by means of cinematograph, television or other similar apparatus."
The EC took the decision after going through the video recording of the address of Modi at a meeting in Gandhinagar after he exercised his franchise. The BJP's PM nominee is in the fray from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Vadodara in Gujarat, where polling was held on Wednesday.
The EC said the substance, tone and tenor of the address made by Modi was "in the nature of political speech intended and calculated to influence and affect the result of elections".
The poll watchdog also referred to its April 9 order that said people cannot enter a polling station with caps, shawls and clothes bearing symbol of any political party.
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Questioning the EC action, the BJP’s Arun Jaitley was quoted as saying in PTI, “They have asked (Gujarat authorities) to file an FIR against the media for asking questions. Well, if that is the situation, I think (its) legality is in seriousness (sic).”
The Aam Aadmi Party, however, called it “an indication of the habitual offences being committed by Mr Modi and the BJP”.
The BJP had earlier held two major events on polling days — releasing its manifesto on April 7 while Modi had filed his nomination papers from Vadodara on April 9, which was covered live on TV.
On both occasions, the Congress had complained to the EC, which had taken the stand that these events did not happen in polling areas and hence, weren’t violations of the law.
Also, the BJP defended Modi, saying he had acted within limits. It hit out at the Congress and claimed it was an attempt by the "rattled" party to divert the attention of the people.
"As far as Modi is concerned, he has acted within the ambit of the model code of conduct," BJP general secretary J P Nadda told reporters.
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(With inputs from Mahesh Langa & Chetan Chauhan)
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