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Showcause Sonia, Modi tells panel

New Delhi, Dec. 8: Narendra Modi has told the Election Commission that rather than him it is Sonia Gandhi who deserves a showcause notice for violating the model code of conduct.

Modi denied ever saying he had got Sohrabuddin Sheikh killed in a fake encounter, and added that whatever he had said was in retaliation to the Congress president’s description of him as “maut ke saudagar (merchant of death)”.

The poll panel will meet tomorrow to consider Modi’s reply. It had served a notice on the Gujarat chief minister on Thursday for allegedly justifying the killing of Sohrabuddin in an election speech and asked him to reply by today.

Modi argued Sonia had provoked him. “Surely it cannot be (the) policy of the EC first to ignore the violation of the code of conduct in her statement and then censor my political response to that statement,” he said.

“When statements are made by political opponents, others are entitled to reply to them…. I responded that the maut ka saudagar are all those who attacked Parliament.”

The chief minister claimed his speech was against terrorism and made the standard politician’s plea of having been misquoted and reported out of context.

“I have made a reference to Sohrabuddin’s case and mentioned the allegations against him. I have accused the Congress of suggesting that I have engineered a fake encounter.”

He said the controversy was based on “unverified and false media reports”.

“At no stage, I have controverted the affidavit filed by the Gujarat government in the Supreme Court of India. I have already clarified my position that I do not support fake encounters,” he said.

The apex court is hearing the Sohrabuddin case. Modi had referred to him at Mangrol on December 4.

The poll panel’s notice said: “The commission, prima facie, is of the view that the references to late Sohrabuddin… may aggravate existing differences, creating mutual hatred… between different communities.”

Modi urged the panel to “adopt an even-handed approach” and issue a notice to Congress leader Digvijay Singh, too. Singh, he said, had branded the Sangh parivar a “Hindu terrorist organisation”.

Suresh Mehta quits

Former chief minister Suresh Mehta quit the BJP today accusing the party leadership of “surrendering” to Modi’s whims.

“When I saw the entire party was surrendering before one person, I thought it was best to quit,” Mehta, who was chief minister briefly in 1995, told reporters.

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