BJP's fears over the Election Commission de-recognising the party in the course of the UP elections receded as the EC on Thursday adjourned its hearing to April 19. By that time, three rounds of the seven-phased assembly polls will be over.
The deferment ruled out the possibility of any action on the complaints against the BJP by Congress and other parties over circulation of a controversial anti-Muslim issue --- till a final word on the BJP's demand that Election Commissioner Naveen Chawla recuse himself from hearing the case (against it) because of a BJP petition against him in the Supreme Court.
The Chawla issue, which caused the CD case to be taken up later, dominated the two-hour long proceeding before the EC's full bench on Thursday. The EC postponed the hearing to April 19 after Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley completed his submissions on opposing Chawla's participation in the proceedings. The Congress, Left parties and Jan Morcha kept up their attack on the BJP for the CD issue.
If the BJP seemed relieved, Union Minister Kapil Sibal, who represented the Congress, said after the proceedings that the EC has assured the party that it would "immediately" issue an "interim administrative order" to check the distribution of controversial CDs in UP. CPI(M)’s Nilotpal Basu also held a similar view.
But, when asked whether the Congress pressed for BJP's de-recognition, Sibal said: "Not till the investigation is complete. We have not made any demand that the BJP should be immediately de-recognised. Till the probe is complete, such a demand cannot be made and it is also not proper."
The BJP claimed the Congress' stand on BJP's de-recognition was shifting. BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "The exhuberence of the Congress is rebounding on them. Wisdom has come to them a bit late."
Sibal alleged that the BJP's objection against Chawla was aimed at deflecting the attention from the CD issue. "The BJP tried to make it a misconceived proceeding, and politically motivated. It did not want any hearing on the CD," he said.
Prasad quoted the Commission as having said that the order on the Chawla issue would be passed on April 19 and the date would be confirmed on April 17. Thereafter the case pertaining to the CD would be heard on merit, he said.
Also, BJP leader Muktar Abbas Naqvi showed copies of Urdu newspapers carrying advertisements that used "scurrilous and abusive" language against party leaders. He also complained to the EC that a CD "derogatory of the BJP, BSP and the Congress" had been circulated by the SP.
Background: Four parties - Jan Morcha, BSP, Samajwadi Party and Congress - had approached the commission seeking BJP's de-recognition as a national party saying that it had violated the election code by releasing the CD ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections that began on April 7.
The BJP, however, disowned all responsibility for the disc. Party leaders have admitted that it was prepared for the election campaign but said they would have sought the poll panel's clearance before releasing it but it got released inadvertently and without authorisation, they have maintained.
The EC filed a police complaint against BJP President Rajnath Singh and the Party's Uttar Pradesh unit leader Lalji Tandon in connection with the CD. Singh went to the court but the police refused to arrest him, saying that the investigation was yet to be over.