New Delhi, Aug. 23: Chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh today said religion was “responsible” for the “despicable” references that Narendra Modi made while criticising the poll panel’s stand on Gujarat elections.
“These remarks reflected how cruel the polity is,” he said. “I don’t have any religion. I couldn’t care less.” Religions, he added, have created all these problems. “It is despicable and it comes from gossip menials,” the poll panel chief told a television channel. “I think the politics today is dirty, vitiated and tendentious,” he said.
Modi stuck to his stand and continued to attack Lyngdoh despite senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi’s criticism.
Lyngdoh said he agreed with the views of his predecessor M.S. Gill that Governor’s rule should be imposed in states two months before they go to polls, subject to good choice of Governors.
To another query on whether the commission was on firm legal ground on its stand on the Gujarat polls, he said: “The more the criticism, the more I think it is the right decision.”
Lyngdoh dismissed speculation that the commission’s order on Gujarat was not unanimous. “I do not do karate on my colleagues,” the black belt holder said.
Commission officials who spoke to The Telegraph today not only charged Modi with trying to polarise voters along religious lines but also accused him of trying to drive a wedge between the three commissioners, the others being B.B. Tandon and T.S. Krishnamurthy.
“It is a three-member commission, why only target Lyngdoh' He may be a Christian. The other two are Hindus who did not utter a single word of dissent. The full commission visited Gujarat and all the three recorded the same observations,” said an official who accompanied the team to the riot-scarred state.
The officials pointed out that the Modi government itself has been seeking postponement of panchayat polls in two districts, 15 taluka panchayats and elections in 81 municipalities for the past two years.
Modi today maintained that he had no intention of showing “disrespect” to the constitutional body. “I am repeating what I have said earlier... Five crore people of Gujarat have the right to know why James Michael Lyngdoh is applying different yardstick for Kashmir and Gujarat,” he said while answering questions from reporters in Mumbai, says PTI.
The Congress today urged Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to uphold his “rajdharma (ethics of governance)” and rein in Modi for his “utter irresponsible and reprehensible” attack on Lyngdoh.
Spokesman Jaipal Reddy, while wondering why Vajpayee has chosen to remain silent so far, said such an attack on a constitutional institution would seriously jeopardise democracy in the country.
“We severely condemn Modi’s outrageously indecent targeting of Lyngdoh in person... The Prime Minister of India is supposed to ensure the dignity of India’s constitutional organisation is protected and defended,” Reddy said.
He said the nation wanted Vajpayee to observe his “rajdharma” — an advice the Prime Minister had given to Modi in the wake of the Gujarat carnage. “If Modi was not reined in, the BJP at the national level would be completely responsible for his obnoxious behaviour,” he said.
Reddy said Vajpayee should come forward and defend Lyngdoh. “Where is the Prime Minister of India' Has he gone underground'” he asked.
Reddy said Modi’s attack was “reprehensible” on a number of counts. First, the decision to delay elections in Gujarat was not taken by Lyngdoh alone but by the three-member Election Commission.
He also alleged that the Centre’s decision to refer the matter to Supreme Court had “emboldened” Modi to indulge in this kind of vicious campaign. “If the trend continues, democracy in our country would be thrown into jeopardy,” he said, urging the NDA allies to clarify their stand on Gujarat.
The CPM also condemned Modi’s remarks. In a statement, the party said the remarks exposed the Gujarat chief minister’s “fascist” mentality towards minorities.
“It is shocking, though revealing, that the national leaders of the BJP, who act as the mentors of Modi, should remain silent and refuse to condemn his remarks,” it said.
“If any further proof is required about the unsuitability of Modi continuing as chief minister, it is this outburst”, the Congress said.