The Election Commission on Monday issued a show cause notice to Union minister Nitin Gadkari for "statements to the effect of inducing the voters to take bribe" during campaigning in Maharashtra assembly polls.
Holding that the statements prima facie violated the provisions of the Model Code of Conduct, the EC has asked Gadkari to file his reply by October 8 failing which action would be taken ex-parte.
In the notice, the EC said district electoral officer of Latur (Maharashtra) had informed the poll watchdog that Gadkari, while addressing a public meeting in Nilenga assembly constituency on Sunday, allegedly made "statements to the effect of inducing the voters to take bribe if offered by someone and then decide how to vote".
According to the English translation of the speech made by the former BJP president in Marathi, he had allegedly said: "Now, I am watching your faces and I have some skill of predicting the future by way of face reading. You have an opportunity of "Laxmi darshan" in next 10 days. Special people to get foreign made, ordinary people to get local brand...
"All are Gandhivadis asking for Rs 5000. In these days of inflation, keep one thing in mind, eat what you wish and drink what you desire. Keep whatever you get. This is the time when illegally earned money can go to poor. Therefore, do not say no to Laxmi. But think while you vote. Your vote should be for the development of Maharashtra."
EC said his statement amounts to "abetting and promoting the electoral offence of bribery" within the meaning of Section 171 B read with Section 17l E of the IPC as it includes offering food, drink or entertainment.
Maharashtra is going to polls on October 15.
Gadkari allegedly told people that while women will get sarees, the young boys will get pant-shirt.
The EC has sent him copies of the CD carrying his speech along with the translated version of the operative portion of his Marathi speech in English.
The poll panel also reminded Gadkari of sub para (4) of para 1 of the Model Code of Conduct which states that parties and candidates shall avoid scrupulously all activities which are 'corrupt practices' and offences under the election law, such as bribing of voters.