Ahmedabad, Apr 30 (PTI): Narendra Modi on Wednesday set off a controversy when he openly sought votes for the Bharatiya Janata Party while holding aloft his party's 'lotus' symbol immediately after casting his ballot.
The Congress promptly moved the Election Commission, accusing the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate of violating the model code of conduct.
The Commission has sought a report from the returning officer.
Though it is a normal practice for top leaders to make brief statements to the media after casting their votes, what irked Modi's rivals was a full-fledged press conference that the Gujarat chief Minister held during which he not only fervently asked the electorate to vote for BJP but also launched a tirade against the Congress.
The tech-savvy BJP's prime ministerial hopeful was also seen happily clicking selfies while prominently displaying the party symbol.
The secretary of the All-India Congress Committee’s legal department, K C Mittal, promptly filed a complaint with the EC, saying Modi's speech and display of symbol was in violation of section 126 of Representation of People Act (RPA) and demanded an FIR be registered against him.
”It is noticed from the live news telecast on various news channels that Modi went to the polling station at Gandhinagar to cast his vote.
”And on his way out he was campaigning for BJP and delivering speech in a fashion to canvas for BJP, himself and also displayed the election symbol to the public while showing his finger for having cast his vote,” the party said in the complaint, adding, “he may also be disqualified for such blatant violation.”
Ahmedabad’s Collector, who is the Returning officer for the poll, replied in the affirmative when asked whether the Election Commision had sought a report on Modi's press conference row.
”We have sent a report to he CEO. We have sent a preliminary report. Shall submit video clip,” Returning officer of Ahmedabad Roopwant Singh said.
Under the Election Commission’s rules, a candidate is liable to be booked for model code violation if he canvasses within a radius of 100 metres of a polling booth.
“Congress has accepted defeat as it is now saying that it will support the Third Front to keep me out of the (PM's) race. The mother-son government is on its way out,” Modi said addressing journalists.
”The Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and other senior ministers are not in the contest. Tall leaders of Congress are running away from elections,” he said.
”For us this election is not to save chair but to save the country. From day one, while I am trying to find answers to people's problems, they (Congress) are trying to find an answer to Modi,” he said as he parried repeated queries about Priyanka Gandhi's barbs against him and BJP.
Asked about the threat of a defamation suit against him by Mamata Banerjee's Trinamul Congress, Modi said he has been facing cases for the past 12 years and wished good luck to those who do not wish to fight elections in a democratic way.
”For the last 12 years I have faced cases from CBI and others. Those who do not wish to fight elections in a democratic way, good luck to them on the way they want to take it,” he said.
The BJP's PM contender touched upon emotive issues such as the beheading of an Indian soldier by Pakistani army regulars and farmers' suicide to seek vote for his party.
“When you go to cast your vote, do not forget Nirbhaya, do not forget the unemployed youth, do not forget the farmers who committed suicide and do not forget our jawans who were beheaded by Pakistan. Do not forget the atrocities of last ten years,” he said.
Modi's press meet did not go down well with the Aam Aadmi Party too, with its Gujarat convener Sukhdev Patel saying they would register a complaint against him.
“Modi is a senior politician. He should know his limits. But it has been his nature to flout rules and this is an example of it,” Patel said.
Gujarat Congress president Arjun Modhvadia said, “We will seek action against him and demand his arrest for poll code violation.”
He also alleged that the Gujarat administration was working like an “agent” of Modi and the Election Commission had failed to exercise control over the state officials.
“Since the very beginning, we have been drawing the attention of the Election Commission of India that Gujarat administration is not under control of the EC. Officials are behaving like Modi's agents,” he said.