Union minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday called the Congress a “cry baby”, claiming that political parties have been complaining of violations of the Model Code of Conduct by opponents excessively. He said that the Model Code of Conduct and the right to free speech must co-exist.
“The MCC cannot encroach upon the Right to Free Speech,” the Bharatiya Janata Party leader said. “The two have to exist harmoniously. The Election Commission, therefore, is under an obligation not to dilute or compress Right to Free Speech.” He made the statements in a blog titled “Model Code of Conduct Does Not Take Away the Right to Free Speech”.
Jaitley urged parties to keep this in mind before submitting complaints of violation of the Model Code of Conduct. “The Right to Free Speech does not get suspended or diluted even during elections,” he said. “Quite to the contrary, elections are the greatest celebration of Indian democracy. The sacrosanct Right of Free Speech has to be fully protected during this period.”
Jaitley cited Modi’s speeches against which there were complaints of poll code violations. In the first instance where Modi appealed to “first-time voters”, Jaitley said a party or candidate was not mentioned. In another instance Modi referred to the “demographic composition of the new constituency of Congress President”. “How these speeches are even considered violative of the MCC?” the minister asked.
On May 1, the poll panel had said that the prime minister did not break the rules by appealing to first-time voters to dedicate their votes to security personnel killed in the Pulwama attack in February. The commission also did not find any violation in the prime minister’s speech in Maharashtra’s Wardha district on April 1 in which he had claimed that Congress President Rahul Gandhi had been forced to contest the election from Wayanad in Kerala because of its sizeable Muslim population.
Jaitley claimed the Gandhi family follows the principle of “restrictive free speech”. “They can call even an honest Prime Minister a ‘chor’ [thief],” Jaitley said. “Others don’t possess that right.”
Jaitley was purportedly referring to Modi’s remark against former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Modi had said that Gandhi had died a corrupt person.
“Expansive reach of MCC may actually run it in the danger of being questioned for its constitutionality in relation to free speech,” Jaitley said. “To avoid such a situation, the memorialist must keep in mind that the Right to Free Speech has not been diluted in any way by the MCC.”