Controversial Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Azam Khan on Sunday accused the Election Commission (EC) of working at the behest of the central government, while calling the poll watchdog a "slave of the Congress".
Khan has been banned from campaigning in Uttar Pradesh. Acting on the EC's directions, the UP Police had lodged two separate FIRs against the state minister on Saturday. One of them was for giving communal colours to the Kargil war and attributing India's victory to "Muslim soldiers" at a recent rally.
Addressing mediapersons at the Samajwadi Party (SP) office in his home town Rampur, Khan said, "EC too is working on the pattern of CBI, which happens to remain under the influence of the Centre."
He also alleged the EC was trying to gag him on the orders of the Congress. "Such oppressive actions (read FIRs and ban on campaigning) would not be effective in preventing our message from reaching every corner of the country."
Khan's remarks drew a sharp response from the Congress. Party leader KC Mittal said, "All such allegations are baseless and a figment of his imagination."
"The Commission, as an independent authority, is competent to take action against all or any party in its wisdom. The tone and tenor of Khan's statement is not appreciable in public discourse."
A four-minute video on Kargil was shown on the screen during Khan's press conference to substantiate his controversial statement, which prompted the EC to prohibit him from canvassing.
Khan said he might challenge the ban order in court, but clarified his first preference was to get the matter resolved through the EC.
He added a review petition had been filed in the commission for the re-examination of the order.
Justifying his Kargil speech, Khan described it as a message of love, and not hatred.
"What I said was a historical fact. I spoke about our love and affection for the country... I dream of seeing (SP chief) Mulayam Singh Yadav as the prime minister. If all these come under the purview of communalism, then I don't want to say anything more."
Khan also expressed dismay over comparing him with BJP's UP-in-charge Amit Shah, who has also been banned from campaigning in the state for his alleged call for 'revenge' in riot-hit Muzaffarnagar.
Meanwhile, a fresh case was lodged against Khan on the directions of the EC for his alleged 'hate-speech' at an election rally in Jalalabad area of Shamli last Tuesday, district magistrate NP Singh said.
Khan had allegedly attacked BJP's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi, saying, "His hands are coloured with blood of innocent people and you should never let any such person rule the country."
With inputs from Agencies