The Election Commission on Wednesday asked BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi to explain his comment terming the Congress election symbol a “khooni panja (bloodied hand). It also ordered Congress vice-president to be more "circumspect" in his future speeches.
Issuing two separate orders at the same time and trying to maintain political neutrality, the EC issued a mild reprimand to Gandhi for saying Pakistan’s ISI had attempted to woo Muslim youths whose kin had been killed during Muzzafarnagar communal riots in September.
Gandhi had also accused BJP of inciting the communal clashes.
“Some portions of your speeches were not in consonance with the letter and spirit of the model code of conduct that prohibits speeches or statements likely to sharpen differences between different religious communities," the EC order said.
"It also prohibits criticism of other political parties on the basis of unverified allegations,” the order added.
Expressing its displeasure over the use of words, the commission said it advises Gandhi to be more circumspect in his public utterances during election campaigns.
The commission restrained itself from using strong words such as censure or warning to Gandhi.
Gandhi had said in his reply to the EC notice that his intention was to maintain communal harmony and his criticism of the BJP was based on the saffron party’s “stated policy”.
While accepting the spirit of Gandhi's speeches was to foster and promote communal harmony, the poll watchdog took exception to the tone, tenor and content of the impugned portions of his speech, saying it violated the model code of conduct.
At the same time, the commission asked Modi to explain his remark terming the Congress election symbol, hand, as "khooni panja (bloodied hand)".
The EC held Modi prima facie guilty of making an unverifiable allegation against the Congress under the model code of conduct.
The code allows political parties to criticise opponents on policies, programmes and past record but not on something that cannot be substantiated.
Asking Modi to submit a reply by November 16, the EC said it had obtained a CD of his speech on November 7 at Rajnandgaon in Chhattisgarh. The contents of the speech, he said, substantiated the Congress complaint.
The Congress on Sunday had accused Modi of violating the code by asking voters not to vote for the hand he described “bloodied”.
Modi had said, "When Atal Behari Vajpayee formed Chhattisgarh, whose hands did it first go into...Do you want such a "khooni panja" (bloodied hand) again...even by mistake, don't ever let Chhattisgarh go into the hands of a 'zalim panja' (cruel hands)."