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Sonia flies into EC thunder
- Showcause slapped for code abuse

New Delhi, Nov. 18: Sonia Gandhi has tasted the feared whiplash of J.M. Lyngdoh, who has asked the Congress why its recognition as a national party should not be suspended or withdrawn.

The showcause was slapped after the Election Commission concluded that Congress president Sonia and Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi had “violated” the model of conduct by using state government aircraft during campaigning.

It said an aircraft and a helicopter owned by the government had been used by Sonia, Jogi and Madhya Pradesh Speaker Shrinivas Tiwari in violation also of its specific directives.

The panel noted that Sonia had used the helicopter on October 10 to travel from Chhattisgarh’s capital Raipur to several places, including Sriperumbudur, where her husband Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. The model code came into force from October 6.

The showcause notice, made public after a full poll panel meeting chaired by chief election commissioner Lyngdoh, has been sent to the Congress headquarters at 24 Akbar Road.

The violations are clubbed under Section 16A of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order which mandates suspension or withdrawal of the recognition of a political party if it fails to follow the commission’s “lawful directions”.

The commission has asked the Congress to reply to the notice within seven days. “If the party does not reply in seven days, it will be presumed that the Congress has nothing to say in the matter and the Election Commission will take appropriate action without further reference to the Congress,” the notice added.

The Congress asserted that Sonia had “definitely not used” any of the Chhattisgarh government aircraft ever since the model code of conduct went into force. AICC media secretary Tom Vadakkan said on the contrary, Sonia was “absolutely correct” in her travel itinerary after the code came into force.

About Jogi, he said: “We have just received the notice from the Election Commission and we are cross-checking it.”

The commission said it had received “several” complaints that aircraft belonging to the state government were being “misused” for campaigning by Congress leaders.

The commission has found that state government aircraft have been used on and after October 6 up to November 12 as many as 10 times.

The commission recalled having declared that there would be an absolute ban on the use of aircraft owned by a state or hired at state cost for any reason, including security, and no exception would be made, except in the case of the Prime Minister. The rule was set to ensure a level-playing field for all parties.

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