The Congress today launched a scathing attack on the Election Commission, accusing it of acting like a “captive puppet” of the BJP and not taking action against Prime Minister Narendra Modi who held what it called a roadshow in Gujarat. In a no-holds-barred attack on Chief Election Commissioner A K Joti, the Congress alleged he was behaving like Modi’s principal secretary and said the poll body had prostrated itself before the government. Addressing a joint press conference here, Congress general secretary in charge of Gujarat Ashok Gehlot and communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala alleged that a “desperate prime minister facing defeat in Gujarat” held a roadshow with BJP flags and flouted the Constitution and the poll code of conduct. The EC was acting like a frontal organisation of the BJP and had abdicated its constitutional responsibility by not moving against Modi, they said. It should be “ashamed” of itself for not maintaining neutrality in the ongoing polls, the Congress leaders added. “A desperate prime minister facing defeat in Gujarat holds a roadshow with BJP flags, flagrantly flouts the Constitution and the code of conduct. A puppet Election Commission looks on with complicity denigrating its role of an independent arbiter,” they said.
The Election Commission had also denigrated the Constitution, Surjewala told reporters. “The Election Commission has become a captive puppet of Narendra Modi and the BJP. Unfortunately, the Chief Election Commissioner has abdicated his Constitutional responsibility,” he said. He claimed that Modi, facing imminent defeat in the Assembly polls, had latched on to the “last straw”, the EC, to violate the Constitution and code of conduct, “in complicity and cahoots” with the Election Commission of India. “A meek Election Commission is prostrating before the government and the prime minister, refusing to act till the conclusion of the voting and that is the entire game plan and the conspiracy,” he said. Surjewala said the EC can register an FIR against news channels and newspapers based on a complaint filed by the BJP within 30 minutes but not act against the prime minister, BJP chief Amit Shah and Union ministers. “The ministers, the PMO and the chief minister were calling TV channels, threatening them that they would be all sent to jail,” he alleged.
“It is a sad letter day for India. The Election Commission of India has denigrated the Constitution and abdicated its responsibility,” he added. This conduct, the Congress spokesperson alleged, reflected the EC’s “prejudiced and one-sided” approach and showed that it was acting like “a captive puppet of the BJP”. Mincing no words, Surjewala said while the CEC may have been principal secretary to the present prime minister and served as a civil servant in Gujarat, as a constitutional functionary it was expected that he and other Election Commissioners would act with neutrality and as an unbiased arbiter.
“If the EC is going to become a captive puppet, who will uphold the majesty of the election? That is why through the media, we are calling upon their conscience to at least wake up now and uphold the Constitution and not act as a subservient wing of the BJP,” he said.
The EC, he added, was taking orders from the BJP office and the PM. (He is) “sitting on a constitutional post but taking orders from the BJP office and PM Modiji”. “We feel the Chief Election Commissioner who used to be PS to Modiji, though he has now on a constitutional post, is still acting as Modi’s PS,” he said. Joti was principal secretary and chief secretary in Gujarat when Narendra Modi was chief minister. “In this country’s 70-year history, the CEC-EC has shamed itself … by acting like a captive puppet of the government and the prime minister,” Surjewala alleged. The Congress leaders demanded that if EC was concerned about its dignity, it should act against the prime minister.
The opposition party’s strident attack against the Election Commission and Modi comes a day after the poll panel issued a show cause notice to Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi for “prima facie” violating the poll code by giving interviews to Gujarati TV channels. The poll panel asked him to reply by December 18, failing which it would decide the matter without his response. Surjewala alleged the rules were different for the Congress and the media on the one hand, and for the prime minister and BJP leaders on the other.