The Election Commission on Wednesday said it had instructed Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat BB Swain to file a First Information Report against the television channel that aired an interview of Congress President-designate Rahul Gandhi a day before the second phase of the Assembly elections.
The Congress leader’s interview to local news channel Gujarat Samachar was aired on Wednesday afternoon. The poll panel held that this violated the Model Code of Conduct in effect in the state. The FIR will be filed for violating Section 126 (1) (b) of the Representation of People Act, 1951.
The Election Commission also issued Gandhi a notice, asking him to explain by 5 pm on December 18 – the day the election results will be declared – why action should not be taken against him “for violating provisions of the Model Code of Conduct”. The poll panel warned that it will decide on the matter without referring to him if he does not file his response.
On Wednesday night, several Congress leaders went to the Election Commission office in Delhi, saying Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Arun Jaitley and Piyush Goyal had “violated the Model Code of Conduct again and again”.
They highlighted Modi’s speech at an event earlier in the day, at which he had criticised the Congress, and a press conference called by Goyal, as well. “These double standards won’t work,” Congress Spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said. “First, an FIR should be filed against Modi and other BJP leaders, instead of the press.
In the interview, Gandhi criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for insulting his predecessor Manmohan Singh while campaigning in the state, instead of talking about people’s concerns.
Soon after, the Bharatiya Janata Party filed a complaint with the Election Commission, saying an interview was a form of campaigning, which is not allowed 48 hours before elections, The Times of India reported.
In the interview, Gandhi accused Modi of “evading issues of the people” and said he “lacks a vision for Gujarat”. “That is why the PM is not talking about issues...just roaming around here and there instead,” he said. “No talk about farmers’ issues, nothing.”
After the BJP’s complaint to the poll panel, the Congress said the party was “attempting to usurp the role of the Election Commission” by “threatening media houses”. “We urge the EC to take action and uphold the sanctity of its institution,” the Congress said.
Correction and clarifications: An earlier version of this story erroneously said that the FIR was ordered to be filed against Rahul Gandhi, not the TV channel.