The Election Commission on Wednesday directed Bharatiya Janata Party chief JP Nadda and Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge to tell their star campaigners to correct their discourse, exercise care and maintain decorum.

In the direction issued to Nadda, the poll panel asked him to tell BJP’s star campaigners to refrain from making speeches that may “divide the society”. It told Kharge to tell the star campaigners from the Congress not to make statements that indicate the Constitution “may be abolished or sold”.

This comes nearly a month after the Election Commission issued notices to Nadda and Kharge seeking an explanation for alleged violations of the Model Code of Conduct by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

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, meetings and other aspects of the election campaign.

On Wednesday, the poll panel told Nadda and Kharge that their responses to the notices were not tenable. It also noted that even after the previous notice, the star campaigners of both parties continued to make statements in violation of the poll code.

In the notice to Nadda, the Election Commission told him to direct his party’s star campaigners to “refrain from any campaigning methods/utterances along religious communal lines”.

The Election Commission told Kharge that the Congress’ star campaigners making statements that “anyone can either abolish or tear apart the Constitution of India is alleged to be instilling fear in the minds [of] voters about an uncertain future and an attempt to spread anarchy in the country”.

It also directed Kharge to convey to his party’s star campaigners to “desist as part of the election campaigning from indulging in any political propaganda involving activities of the defence forces and not to make potentially divisive statements regarding socio-economic composition of Defence forces”.

Previous notice

The poll panel’s notices in April had also been sent to the party chiefs instead of the political leaders in question.

The notice to Nadda had come after the Congress, the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) moved the Election Commission against Modi for his claims that the Congress plans to distribute citizens’ property among “infiltrators” if voted to power, in an apparent reference to Muslims.

At an election rally in Rajasthan on April 21, Modi had said: “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 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 Opposition parties had denounced the remarks and several civil society groups termed it hate speech.

Shortly after, the BJP filed a complaint against Gandhi with the poll panel accusing him of attempting to create a linguistic and regional divide in the country. The Hindutva party accused the Wayanad MP of conspiring to create a rift between north and south India as part of the Congress’ Lok Sabha election campaign.

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