EC takes serious note of 'plummeting level' of campaigning in Karnataka, issues advisory

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New Delhi: Taking serious note of the "plummeting level of campaign discourse" during electioneering in Karnataka, the Election Commission on Tuesday asked political parties and their star campaigners to exercise caution and restraint in their utterances and not to vitiate the election atmosphere.

The EC advisory came amid the use of barbs such as 'poisonous snake', 'vishkanya' and 'nalayak' by leaders of Congress and BJP against each other in the run-up to the Karnataka assembly elections on May 10.

The poll panel also referred to the instances of "inappropriate vocabulary and language" used during the ongoing campaign by persons, "in particular, by those invested with the statutory status of star campaigner".

"Such instances have occasioned various complaints, cross complaints and have also attracted negative media attention," the EC said in a statement.

Campaigning for the May 10 polls is hotting up with the Congress and the BJP being engaged in a war of words. Both Congress and BJP have moved the poll panel seeking action against each other.

The Commission pointed out that recognised national parties and star campaigners enjoy "extra enablements" within the Representation of the People Act.

"It is imperative for all parties and stakeholders to remain within the confines of the Model Code of Conduct and the legal framework in their utterances while campaigning so as to maintain the dignity of the political discourse and not to vitiate the campaign and the election atmosphere," the advisory read.

It said the parties are expected to contribute in maintaining and raising the level of discourse to “issue-based debate, provide pan-India perspective, depth to the local discourse and to reassure all sections of electors to participate fully and fearlessly in a free and fair election.”

The commission noted that as per the provisions of the model code, the use of provocative and inflammatory statements, the use of intemperate and abusive language transgressing the limits of decency and attacks on the personal character and conduct of political rivals vitiate level- playing field.

"The spirit of the MCC is not just avoidance of a direct violation, it also prohibits attempts to vitiate the electoral space through suggestive or indirect statements or innuendoes," the statement said.

It has also asked its state chief electoral officers to ensure the widest publicity of the advisory and compliance there, failing which appropriate action must be initiated as per the existing regulatory and legal framework.

"The Commission, in collaboration and consultation with all stakeholders, in particular, the political parties and the candidates, has invested efforts in encouraging all stakeholders to maintain a level of political discourse during campaigning which is befitting the widespread admiration and standing of Indian democracy worldwide," it said.

Earlier in the day, a BJP delegation met the Election Commission members and raised the issue of the Congress promising tough action against Bajrang Dal and its leader Prinyak Kharge calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi "nalayak" as it accused the opposition party of resorting to politics of appeasement and division in Karnataka.

Union minister Piyush Goyal, who led the BJP delegation to the EC, defended the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the RSS-affiliated Vishva Hindu Parishad, as an organisation devoted to Lord Hanuman and serving people, and said the Congress' attack on it was "shameful". It shows that the party believes in only appeasement, he told reporters.

Asked if the party raised the issue before the poll panel, he said every "objectionable" comment and action of the Congress aimed at dividing the society was taken up.

Party sources said the Bajrang Dal issue was raised orally before the EC.

The delegation included BJP MP Anil Baluni and party functionary Om Pathak.

Meanwhile, a group of Congress leaders also met with the EC and accused Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP chief J P Nadda and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath of making “hate speeches" and demanded immediate action against them in the wake of Supreme Court orders on such speeches.

The Congress team comprising Ajay Maken, Vivek Tankha, Salman Khurshid and Pawan Khera also gave them a memorandum demanding immediate action against such "hate speeches".

"The home minister says such things which polarise the country and create division in society..., neither the Constitution provides for such a thing nor does the oath they take while assuming the high office. We have pointed this out to the Election Commission," Tankha told reporters after the meeting.

He asked what the home minister meant by saying that "there would be riots in India if the Congress comes to power".


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