EC notice on 'rate card' ads: Congress accuses poll panel of bias
Despite the Congress bringing to the EC's notice on the "brazen and repeated" violations of electoral guidelines by PM Modi, it has not issued one notice or condemnation, the Congress said
The Congress has accused the Election Commission of "bias" over its notice on the party's "corruption rate card" advertisements targeting the BJP government in Karnataka and said its leaders are held to a standard that seems reserved only for the Opposition.
Despite the Congress bringing to the EC's notice on numerous occasions the "brazen and repeated" violations of electoral guidelines by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders, the commission has not issued one notice or condemnation, the Congress said on Sunday.
In the Congress' "preliminary response", party leader and lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi also said the 24-hour window provided by the EC for responding to the notice was insufficient with the Karnataka assembly poll campaign drawing to a close.
The EC had on Saturday issued a notice to the Karnataka Congress over its "corruption rate card" advertisements published in newspapers in the run-up to the May 10 state polls and sought "empirical evidence" to prove its allegations by Sunday evening.
The notice was issued following a complaint lodged by the BJP.
The Congress had released a set of posters and advertisements listing "corruption rates" in the state between 2019 and 2023 while terming the BJP government a "trouble engine".
"...the actions of the Commission are prima facie violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution, which provide a fundamental guarantee against arbitrariness in administrative action as well as against bias, official acts of mala fide, violations of natural justice and which provide the most vital guarantee of equality," the Congress said.
"...it is clear that the Indian National Congress is being subject to unfair and unequal treatment by the Commission. Leaders of the INC are held to a standard that seems to be reserved only for the opposition. They are asked to explain themselves for the slightest perceived offence and their advertisements are flagged for content that is far tamer than the ones allowed for the BJP," it said.
The EC can never allow itself to be seen as an organisation that turns a "Nelsonial blind eye" to egregious violations by the ruling party, it said.
"This proactive zeal seems to be reserved solely for the Opposition, as we have through numerous detailed, documented and numbered representations sought to bring to the Commission's attention the brazen, shocking, egregious, heinous and repeated violations of almost every single electoral guideline, by Shri Narendra Modi, Shri Amit Shah, Shri J P Nadda, Shri Adityanath as well as other BJP leaders," it said.
"Yet not one show cause notice has been issued for these deliberate violations. Forget pursuing criminal proceedings, not one condemnation or censure has been issued to name and shame these individuals by the Commission," it added.
The Congress said this might be the first time in history that the EC has summoned a national party to provide evidence in support of a political advertisement.
"The Election Commission, with its vast powers of superintendence, could have chosen to investigate the allegations, evidence of which is available in the public domain but instead it has chosen to go after the party that is shedding light on the rampant corruption plaguing the people of the state," it said.
It said BJP MLA Yatnal, who publicly spoke about the chief minister's post being "sold" for Rs 2,500 crore, has been renominated as a candidate by the BJP and several party legislators have been pointing out through public statements the issue of rampant corruption in the Basavaraj Bommai-led Karnataka government, the Congress said.
Even the Contractors Association of Karnataka, comprising 50,000 contractors, has publicly spoken about the "40 per cent commission being demanded by the Bommai government" and even named a number of BJP legislators, it said.
The opposition party, however, pointed out that its political advertisement under scrutiny has no mention of the BJP nor does it name any person or candidate belonging to the said party.
The Congress said further that the time provided by the EC for filing its response was "insufficient".
"... while we are submitting this preliminary response out of our sheer regard for the constitutional role of the ECI, we reserve both the right to be heard in person as well as the right to submit additional documents and pleadings as there are barely 24 hours left for the close of campaigning," it said.
"The Indian National Congress, being a responsible national political party, will also be pleased to collate the said evidence for you and present them provided that we are given reasonable time and an in-person hearing," it said.
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