The Election Commission has often taken a view that there has been no violation of the Model Code of Conduct when it comes to complaints against Bharatiya Janata Party leaders for making allegedly “divisive” and “communal” speeches, Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge told the poll panel, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday.

The Model Code of Conduct is a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission for political parties, candidates and governments to follow during an election. It sets guardrails for speeches, rallies and other aspects of the poll campaign.

Kharge’s letter to the Election Commission was in response to a notice the Opposition party had received from the poll panel on April 25 based on a complaint filed by the BJP. The Hindutva party had accused Congress leader Rahul Gandhi of attempting to create a linguistic and regional divide in the country during the Lok Sabha election campaign.

The Congress president argued that while his party is expected to adhere to the Model Code of Conduct, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not backtracked from making “provocative and divisive” statements that are in alleged violation of the poll code.

Kharge referred to statements made by top BJP leaders that were against Congress and aimed at spreading “false rhetoric” against Muslims, The Indian Express reported. The Congress chief told the poll panel that remarks by him and Gandhi were not even in the same “vicinity vis-à-vis tenor, intention, language” and cannot be considered violative of the election laws, the newspaper reported.

Kharge also alleged that the BJP complaint was based on false contexts, presumptions and insinuations aimed at derailing Congress’ election campaign and an attempt to limit criticism of Modi.

The BJP complaint was filed at a time when the Congress, the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) had complained to the Election Commission against Modi for his claims that the Congress plans to distribute citizens’ property among “infiltrators” and “those who have more children” if voted to power, in an apparent reference to Muslims.

At an election rally in Rajasthan on April 21, Modi claimed: “When the Congress-led government was in power, they had said that Muslims have the first right over the country’s assets. This means that they will distribute wealth to those who have more children and those who are infiltrators. Is this acceptable to you?”

Modi was purportedly referring to remarks that Congress leader Manmohan Singh had made on December 9, 2006, in an address to the National Development Council. Singh, the prime minister at the time, had said that the country’s priorities were to uplift the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, minorities, and women and children.

The poll panel had issued notice to BJP National President JP Nadda on April 25, not Modi who had made the comments, after complaints by Opposition parties. The Commission said that the party’s star campaigners were expected to contribute to a “higher quality of discourse”.

In its notices on April 25, the poll panel directed Nadda and Kharge to inform all their star campaigners of the high standards of political discourse expected from them.

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