The Election Commission on Saturday asked the Gujarat election panel for details of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s speech at Navsari on December 1, in which she used the phrase “merchants of fear and death.”
The move came shortly after AICC spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said that the party president did actually refer to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi when she used the phrase “merchants of death”. “I am reiterating that the Congress president did use the phrase in reference to Gujarat Chief Minister and this description of Narendra Modi is appropriate,” he said in a shift of emphasis from Union minister Kapil Sibal’s remarks on Friday that Sonia referred to state functionaries while using the phrase.
Asked if Sonia would give a suo motu clarification on her speech to the EC, Singhvi said, “She needs to clarify nothing. Everything is on camera. There is no question about being apologetic... we stand by the statement,” he added.
Meanwhile, Modi, in his written reply to the poll panel, claimed that he had never justified the Sohrabuddin encounter and the controversy over his election speech was based on “unverified and false media reports.” He said that he did not support “fake encounters” and that his speech has to be read in its entirety as he was responding to Sonia referring to him when she said that those who ruled Gujarat were “maut-ke-saudagar.”
“Surely it cannot be policy of the EC first to ignore the violation of the Code of Conduct in her statement and then censor my political response to that statement,” Modi said. He asked the poll panel to withdraw the notice it has sent to him on Thursday in which it said that by linking Sohrabuddin’s name to terrorism, he may have been creating communal tension. The EC may soon consider Modi’s response and his plea that the notice against him be withdrawn.