The Election Commission of India on Friday revoked the star campaigner status of senior Congress leader Kamal Nath, citing multiple poll code violations ahead of the Madhya Pradesh bye-elections.
The Election Commission or the law does not define who star campaigners are but they are, in almost all cases, prominent and popular faces of a party who are nominated to campaign in a set of constituencies. Star campaigners are permitted to campaign without their expenses being added to that of the candidates, which are capped.
The commission cited Nath’s use of a derogatory term for BJP leader Imarti Devi, who is also a candidate in the upcoming Madhya Pradesh bye-polls. The poll panel had issued a notice to Nath on October 21 for calling Devi an “item”. The commission’s notice came after the BJP complained to the panel and the National Commission for Women had also flagged it.
On Monday, the poll body said Nath had violated the Model Code of Conduct and asked him not to use words like “item” for any candidate.
The Election Commission had asked Nath to respond within 48 hours. However, in Friday’s order, the poll panel said: “...reply of Shri Kamal Nath was not found to be satisfactory and hence the commission issued an advisory order dated 26.10.2020...for violation of the provisions” in the Model Code of Conduct.
The poll body also listed Nath’s remark against Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The senior Congress leader had on October 13 said that “Shivraj is an actor, should go to Mumbai to act”.
The commission said Nath, being a leader of a political party, repeatedly “breached ethical and dignified behaviour” during the bye-election campaign. It said that due to repeated violation of the poll code “and for completely disregarding the advisory issued to him, the commission hereby revokes the status of leader of political party (star campaigner) of Shri Kamal Nath...with immediate effect”.
It also warned that if the former chief minister campaigns, the cost of his travel, stay and visit will be completely paid by the candidate in whose constituency he campaigns.
Meanwhile, the Congress said it will move the Supreme Court against the Election Commission’s decision, PTI reported. Congress Rajya Sabha member and senior lawyer Vivek Tankha told reporters in Indore that a petition will be filed in the top court as soon as possible.
Bye-elections to 28 Madhya Pradesh Assembly seats will be held on November 3. The results will be declared on November 10.