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EC not to accept BJP's plea to keep out Chawla from CD case

Chief Election Commissioner takes the stand that Chawla alone should decide on this issue and not the panel, report Shekhar Iyer and Saroj Nagi.

india Updated: Apr 11, 2007 22:44 IST

The Election Commission will not accept BJP's demand that Election Commissioner Naveen Chawla stay out of the full commission's hearing on the CD row because a Supreme Court case filed by the party challenging his appointment is still pending.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) N Gopalaswami, who adjourned the hearing till Thursday after a two-hour proceeding, took the stand that Chawla alone should decide on this issue and not the panel, Commission officials said.

On Wednesday, BJP leaders led by Arun Jaitley strongly objected to Chawla's presence, saying that there existed a precedent. Ex-CEC TN Seshan stayed away from hearing the disqualification case of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalaitha filed by Subramanian Swamy because Swamy's wife had been his counsel once.

Chawla and the other Election Commissioner SY Qureshi were present when the hearing for deciding on the plea by other parties for freezing BJP's symbol and its de-recognition saw the BJP speak out against Chawla.

Jaitley held that 205 NDA MPs had made a representation before the President against Chawla. "Another petition against him is before the Supreme Court. There is a reasonable likehood of bias and, therefore, he should not take part in the hearing."

Opposing BJP's demand, Union Minister and Congress leader Kapil Sibal accused the party of raising the issue as a dilatory and diversionary tactic to buy time to "surreptitiously" distribute the controversial CD, which it had claimed to have withdrawn.

He alleged that the BJP was deliberately trying to link two different petitions relating to the CD issue (filed separately by the Congress, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Jan Morcha) and Chawla's presence at the EC hearings (filed by the BJP).

Sibal reiterated the Congress' demand for BJP's derecognition and urged the Commission to take some administrative decisions including a CBI probe when it meets on Thursday. This includes issuing directives that BJP members like Kalyan Singh, Kesari Nath Tripati and Lalji Tandon should not be allowed to participate in the election process either as contestants or campaigners for their direct or indirect participation in the preparation of the CD or its defence.

Meanwhile, another row broke out, with the Congress saying some of BJP's poll advertisements in newspapers in UP smacked of communalism and said they will approach the Election Commission over the issue.

"There cannot be a worst form of communalism than what we are seeing in these advertisements. We will definitely take this issue to the Election Commission," Sibal said.

He referred to the BJP making a pun on Hindi word pak in its poll campaign in the Aligarh region in a bid to woo Hindu voters. "Kya inka irada pak hai?" (are their intentions pure) was the catch line of the saffron party's ad blitz that accused the UPA government led by Congress, the BSP and the SP of protecting bodies like the banned Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

Asked about the ad, BJP leader Kalyan Singh said, "There was nothing objectionable about it". "Whatever we have stated in the ad is the truth, there is nothing objectionable about it," he said. "It is a conspiracy by our political rivals to have us derecognised as a party."

First Published: Apr 11, 2007 21:51 IST