The Election Commission on Saturday held that Narendra Modi and Sonia Gandhi violated the model code of conduct by their controversial remarks during election campaign in Gujarat but was carping in its comments on the Chief Minister, whose speech it said aggravated differences between communities.
The Commission expressed displeasure over the violation by the two leaders and expected that both of them in future would adhere to the salutary provisions of the code in letter and spirit. While doing so, the EC asked Modi to be "more cautious in future", a warning that was not given to Gandhi.
The BJP expressed surprise over the "differentiating" verdict of the Commission, saying it had not given "the same kind of caution" to Gandhi.
The three-member Commission went into the response of the two leaders to its notice on the remarks--the alleged justification by Modi of the fake encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Gandhi's 'merchants of death'--during the campaign.
However, in its communication to Modi, the EC expressed "deep anguish" over the fact that sagacious advice and high expectations of the Supreme Court over conduct of political leaders in election campaign seemed to have been belied.
"It can hardly be gainsaid that some of the impugned utterances in your speech under reference had the effect of aggravating the existing differences to create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities and amounted to an appeal to caste or communal feelings.
"The amount of controversy and national debate which those utterances created all over the country and which even attracted the attention of the apex court of the country bear ample testimony to the above fact of aggravating the existing differences between the main communities inhabiting the state of Gujarat", the Commission said.
It also did not accept Modi's justification for these utterances as "reaction/counterblast to certain propaganda, as alleged by you, to have been carried out against you", an apparent reference to Gandhi's 'merchants of death' remarks against him.
In the letter to Gandhi, the EC said that some of the impugned utterances in her speech amounted to an attack on the personal character or conduct of the political/ administrative functionaries running the present government of Gujarat.
Like Modi, the Commission also asked senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh, who allegedly made references to Hindu terrorism, to be more cautious in future and abide by the model code of conduct.
"In keeping with the sagacious advice and high expectations of the Supreme Court, you were expected to avoid all references to certain communities indulging in terrorism which had the effect of aggravating the existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities and amounted to an appeal to caste or communal feelings," the EC observed.