Lyngdoh tests legal steps - Commission explores options against Modi for outburst

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  • Published 23.08.02

New Delhi, Aug. 23: The Election Commission is planning to seek legal opinion on whether it could proceed against Narendra Modi for his derogatory comments on chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh.

Commission sources said though the poll panel had no contempt powers unlike the courts, Modi’s fulminations amounted to interference with the conduct of free and fair elections in Gujarat.

At a rally near Vadodara on Tuesday, the Gujarat chief minister had referred to Lyngdoh’s religion, Christianity, and hinted at his alleged proximity to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

“Someone asked me, has Lyngdoh come from Italy. I said we would need to ask Rajiv Gandhi,” Modi had said at the rally. “Someone asked: ‘Is he a relation of Sonia Gandhi?’ I said they sometimes met in Church, so there must be ties between them.” Modi also made it a point to repeatedly refer to the election commissioner by his full name — James Michael Lyngdoh.

Asked if Modi’s outbursts called for action, BJP spokesperson V.K. Malhotra said the party’s legal cell will examine the issue. “I have not seen what Modi or the Election Commission said. I will consult the party. The legal cell of the party will meet and decide,” he added.

However, senior party leader Murli Manohar Joshi disapproved of Modi’s language. “It does not behove Modi to make such remarks against a high constitutional authority,” the human resources development minister said in Nagpur.

Lyngdoh today described Modi’s outburst as “despicable” and asserted that such utterances would not affect the functioning of the commission. “These remarks reflected how cruel the polity is,” he said. “I don’t have any religion. I couldn’t care less.”

He added that religions have created all these problems. “It is despicable and it comes from gossip menials,” the poll panel chief told a television channel. 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.

In reply to a question, he said he did not think “it is competitive politics. I think the politics today is dirty, vitiated and tendentious.”

To another query on whether the commission was on firm legal ground on its decision to defer polls in Gujarat, he said “the more the criticism, the more I think it is the right decision”. Lyngdoh also 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 had been seeking postponement of panchayat polls in two districts, 15 taluka panchayats and elections in 81 municipalities which were due in September 2000.Modi stand

Despite Joshi’s criticism, Modi today continued to attack Lyngdoh. “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.

He maintained that he had no intentions to show “disrespect” to the constitutional body.