In the history of Indian elections, three events have occurred last week which are totally without precedent.
Firstly, the Election Commission, following a complaint made to it on behalf of the Bharatiya Janata Party, has publicly censured the Union Minister of Law and Justice and Minority Affairs, Salman Khurshid, for violating the Model Code of Conduct.
Secondly, the Law Minister has reacted defiantly to the Election Commission’s order. The Commission has noted:
‘Shri Khurshid has been seen today (11th February, 2012) making statements to the effect that he would pursue the line of his earlier announcement irrespective of whatever the Commission directs. In fact, the Union Minister goes on to say that he would stick to his line, “even if they hang me”. We have found the tone and tenor of the Union Minister dismissive and utterly contemptuous about the Commission’s lawful direction to him’.
Thirdly, the Election Commission, feeling “shocked that instead of being remorseful about the violation of the Model Code, has chosen to be defiant and aggressive” decided to convene “an emergency meeting” of the full Commission. The Commission then addressed a letter to the President to inform her that
“the Commission is quite concerned that the delicate balance of functions between constitutional authorities has come under a strain, because of the Minister’s improper and unlawful action.”
The last paragraph of the Commission’s letter to the Rashtrapati reads :
“The Election Commission of India finds it necessary and unavoidable to turn to you at this juncture for immediate and decisive intervention so that the ongoing general election to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly is conducted, and this Commission discharges its functions, in accordance with the Constitu;tion and the law.”
It would be worthwhile to place on record some excerpts from the operative part of the Election Commission’s Order in this regard. The Order said :
“The model code of conduct lays down, inter-alia, that the Ministers shall not announce any financial grants in any form or promises thereof. In the Commission’s considered opinion, the promise of jobs to a distinct section of the electorate would also tantamount to special financial grant to the members of that section in the form of government jobs and the remuneration that goes with the jobs. Further, the model code of conduct also prohibits, inter-alia, appeals on the ground of caste or communal feelings. Here also, the Commission is of the considered view that the promise of reserving 9% seats for minorities amounts to an appeal to particular sections of the electorate with a view to influencing their minds to voter for the party in power. The press reports which appeared on the 10th January, 2012, in various national dailies and local news papers of important standing, mention that the respondent while making the above promise of reservation of seats for minorities specifically added that the benefits of such reservation in Uttar Pradesh would go to Muslims…..
“The Commission has come to the inescapable conclusion that the respondent, Shri Salman Khurshid, made a new promise to a distinct targeted group of the electorate among the minorities that 9% seats would be reserved for them from out of the overall quota of 27% for the other backward classes. The Commission is also satisfied that the above promise was made by Shri Salman Khurshid as a Union Minister for Law and Minorities Affairs. Thus, Shri Salman Khurshid has violated the model code of conduct by making the above said promise. The Commission, therefore, cannot help expressing its deep anguish and disappointment over his violation of model code of conduct. As a Union Minister for Law and Minorities Affairs, he has an added responsibility of ensuring that the model code of conduct is observed in letter and spirit so that elections are conducted in a free and fair manner and all political parties enjoy a level playing field in the matter of their election campaigns.”
In the course of my statements during my poll campaign in U.P. I had urged the Prime Minister to advise Salman Khurshid, a Minister in his cabinet, to understand the serious implications of the letter addressed to the President by the Election Commission in which the Commission had described Law Minister Khurshid’s conduct as “improper and unlawful action”, to apologise to the Commission. I had also affirmed that if he fails to do so, he ought to be sacked from the Cabinet.
Presumably, on the P.M’s advice, the Law Minister wrote a letter of regret to the Commission, following which the E.C. decided to treat the matter as closed.
Never before have the Congress Party and/or its leaders communalized an Assembly election as consciously and deliberately as it has done in Uttar Pradesh in 2012.
Salman Khurshid episode is not the only instance to prove this point.
Digvijay Singh’s recent statement to the effect that the Batla House encounter with terrorists was a fake encounter has been yet another instance.
Even after Khurshid’s regret letter, Beni Prasad Varma has repeated what Khurshid had said. The E.C. has served a notice on Varma also. If Varma also does something like what Khurshid has done, and escapes removal from the Ministry, then Jaitley’s suspicion would be proved correct that these statements are not individual acts of defiance of a constitutional authority but part of a planned poll-oriented conspiracy by the party’s poll managers. It is significant that while the party formally distanced itself from Khurshid’s utterances, the family did not. The family’s youngest campaigner enthusiastically supported the Law Minister.
19 Feb, 2012