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Congress terms shortening of Bengal campaign as gift to Modi, BJP

Devdiscourse News Desk | New Delhi | Updated: 16-05-2019 19:36 IST | Created: 16-05-2019 12:55 IST
Congress terms shortening of Bengal campaign as gift to Modi, BJP
Campaigning was originally scheduled to end at 5 pm on Friday for the nine constituencies that would go to polls on May 19. Image Credit: ANI

Congress on Thursday termed Election Commission of India's (ECI) unprecedented move to curtail the campaign period in West Bengal for the final phase of the Lok Sabha polls as a "parting gift to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP" and a "dark spot on India's democracy". Addressing a press conference here, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said that the ECI has allowed campaigning in the state till 10 pm today to ensure that the two pre-announced rallies of Modi in Mathurapur and Dum Dum parliamentary constituencies were not affected by the poll body's order.

In the first such action in India's electoral history, the ECI on Wednesday invoked Article 324 of the Constitution to cut short the campaigning for nine seats in West Bengal, citing "an atmosphere of fear and hatred". The move came in the backdrop of the violence that broke out during a roadshow of BJP president Amit Shah in Kolkata on Tuesday. Campaigning was originally scheduled to end at 5 pm on Friday for the nine constituencies that would go to polls on May 19.

"The ECI order curtailing campaigning in West Bengal by 20 hours and restricting it up to 10 pm today is a dark spot on India's democracy. The ECI has regrettably and completely abdicated its constitutional duty under Article 324 to ensure a level playing field besides negating the due process under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India," Surjewala said. "This appears to be ECI's parting gift to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP in order to ensure that the two pre-announce election rallies of Modi at Mathurapura and Dum Dum in afternoon and evening today are not hit by the EC's order," he said.

Attacking the poll body, the Congress leader said, "Instead of punishing the goons and hooligans of BJP led by their president Amit Shah, the Election Commission is punishing democracy, per se. It (the order) has created a fear psychosis by admitting ECI's inability to hold free and fair polls. The order of the ECI is an unpardonable betrayal of the Constitution." Surjewala said, "Every citizen is questioning the independence, impartiality, objectivity and fairness of the ECI today. Has the ECI become a mere helpless pawn in the hands of Modi-Shah duo? As democracy is under attack from the ruling BJP, it is time for the ECI to submit before people of India, instead of being stifled by PM Modi."

He claimed that Congress filed over 11 complaints with against Modi and Shah with the ECI for alleged violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) but no action was taken. "The Congress Party filed over 11 complaints with the ECI against PM Modi and Amit Shah. Despite clear dissent in ECI ranks and these being a clear cut case of brazen violation of MCC, it meekly surrendered to the whims of Modi and Shah. Has the MCC now become 'Modi Code of Misconduct' to be applied to BJP's political opponents, with total immunity for PM and BJP president?" Surjewala asked.

The party also said that the appointment of the Election Commissioner should be brought under the scanner. "Time has come to review the appointment of the Election Commissioner and it should be brought under the scanner. The appointment of the Election Commissioner must not be at the whims of the government to pick their loyalists...There is a need for a fair process for selection of the ECI. After May 23 when our government will come, we will review it," he added.


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