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Gujarat elections: Poll panel asks Rahul Gandhi to explain TV interviews ahead of voting

The Gujarat election result will be “shocking” for the BJP, Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi said in a television interview on Wednesday.

GujaratElection2017 Updated: Dec 13, 2017 23:36 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Ahmedabad
Gujarat elections,Rahul Gandhi,Rahul interview
Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi(Reuters)

The Election Commission on Wednesday sought an explanation from Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi for appearing in television interviews that allegedly violated the model code of conduct ahead of the second phase of voting in Gujarat.

The poll panel also ordered registration of cases against channels for violating the model code of conduct that prohibits display of any “election matter” within 48 hours of the start of polling, the commission said in a statement.

The Congress, however, accused the EC of favouritism and questioned why it has not taken similar action against Prime Minister Narendra Modi who allegedly made political statements at a business meet on Wednesday when he targeted the previous UPA government.

The party said Modi also addressed four public rallies on December 9, the polling day for the first phase of elections in Gujarat.

A Congress delegation also met EC officials in Delhi opposing the show-cause to Gandhi and bar on airing the interview.

The Congress said the BJP was threatening journalists in Gujarat for airing Gandhi’s interview and asked EC to take note of it.

“For the record, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also gave an interview to a channel a day prior to voting. If that was not violation of model code of conduct, how could Rahul Gandhi’s interview be?” party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

The fresh war of words marked the end of campaigning in Gujarat -- Modi and BJP president Amit Shah’s home state – where the BJP and the Congress are locked in a bitter electoral battle for control of the 182-member assembly

People in 93 assembly seats will cast their votes in the second phase of polling on Thursday.

The results will be announced on December 18 alongwith that of Himachal Pradesh.

In its notice, the commission asked Gandhi to reply by 5 pm on December 18. The poll body in its 2-page order also said it will decide the matter if he fails to respond to the notice.

“The commission, after due deliberations, has therefore directed the chief electoral officer of Gujarat to initiate necessary action by lodging FIRs against those who have violated the above mentioned provision,” the EC said.

The Gujarat election office had earlier asked local television channels not to air Gandhi’s interview after the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lodged four complaints accusing the Congress leader of violating the model code of conduct.

“We have asked the television channels not to air any political interview that polling gets over,” said an official at the state election commission, who was not willing to be quoted. An executive of a television channel confirmed that the EC has unofficially asked them not to broadcast the interview.

Gujarat BJP spokesperson Harshad Patel said the party lodged the complaint against airing of political interviews, including that of Gandhi.

The BJP named nine local television channels which aired breaking news on Gandhi’s interview to the local television channel.

“Modiji had helped me the most…How can I hate him,” Gandhi had said in the interview to local channels, while accusing the PM of not doing anything for Gujarat.

In Delhi, railway minister Piyush Goyal said the Gandhi was so “desperate” fearing defeat in Gujarat that he “violated” the model code that prescribes do’s and don’t for all stake-holders in elections including political parties and media.

Goyal told reporters that such interviews are not allowed in the 40 hours prior to the polls. “We have never given such interview,” he said, seeking a clampdown from the election watchdog.

First Published: Dec 13, 2017 20:10 IST