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Rap before results

New Delhi/Ahmedabad, Dec. 22: The Election Commission has rapped both Narendra Modi and Sonia Gandhi for their campaign remarks a day before the Gujarat poll results, but reserved its strongest words for the chief minister’s speech justifying a fake encounter killing.

“Some of the… utterances in your (Modi’s) speech… had the effect of aggravating existing differences to create mutual hatred or tension between castes and communities and amounted to an appeal to caste or communal feelings,” the three-member panel said in a unanimous decision.

It “advised” the BJP leader to be “more cautious in future” and dismissed his defence that he had been provoked by Sonia calling the rulers of Gujarat “maut ka saudagaron (merchants of death)”.

The panel also expressed its “displeasure” at Sonia’s remark, saying it “amounted to an attack on the personal character or conduct of the political/administrative functionaries running the government of Gujarat”. The Congress “respectfully agreed to disagree” with the finding.

Modi, who had triggered controversy yesterday by show-causing and suspending heavyweight party opponents, stayed indoors on the eve of a crucial day in his political career. Critics saw it as nervousness and loyalists as confidence.

However, the panel’s findings could go against Modi when the Supreme Court hears the contempt case against him for defending the killing of Sohrabuddin while the case was still pending.

The poll commission’s findings are taken into account also when courts hear post-result election petitions filed by rival candidates.

Modi stayed outwardly calm through the day, meeting visitors and party officials, calling up aides and clearing files. He will be at home tomorrow, too, glued to his TV set.

State Congress chief Bharat Solanki will be at his party headquarters since morning. Both parties have begun arranging for garlands and sweets to celebrate victory.

The Muslims would like to share the Congress’s optimism but are afraid that a Modi defeat could trigger a backlash.

“We are hopeful about the Congress’s prospects but there is a fear of communal violence if Modi is defeated,” minority leader Hanif Lakdawala said.

If the BJP wins, Modi will be sworn in at the Sardar Patel stadium. The Congress hasn’t identified a venue but some leaders would prefer the Sabarmati Ashram.

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