New Delhi: The Election Commission on Monday issued a notice to Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela for allegedly making hate speech while campaigning in Gujarat, where elections are stated on December 13 and 17.
The Commission, in its meeting chaired by Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath, decided to issue the notice after prima facie finding that Vaghela had violated the Model Code of Conduct by making speeches in Surat that made references to the post-Godhra violence.
"You have prima facie violated the Model Code of Conduct by inciting the communal feelings of the people through your speech made at a particular meeting at BRC gate ground in Surat on October 31," the EC said in its notice.
The Commission has asked Vaghela to reply by 5 PM on November 15 as to why action should not be initiated against him for violating the Model Code of Conduct, besides the Representation of People Act and certain IPC provisions.
The Commission`s decision to issue the notice came after it received complaints by BJP against Vaghela, following which the Chief Electoral Officer, Gujarat, and the District Electoral Officer, Surat, gave their reports.
It had also received video-recording and transcripts of the speeches and those were seen before issuing the notice.
Vaghela had in his October 31 speech made references to the Godhra incident and recollected the post-Godhra killings. This was seen by the BJP as a brazen attempt to woo the Muslim votebank.
The former Gujarat chief minister is reported to have reminded the voters about the post-Godhra violence and charged the Modi-led Gujarat government of having orchestrated them in his speeches.
The notice further read, "Whereas the Commission has obtained the CD of the proceedings and transcript of the above mentioned meeting where you have made the following objectionable and inflammatory speech."
Vaghela in his speech had said, "Godhra tragedy occurred.
The train compartment was burnt. You people try to understand this conspiracy...Massacre was planned to get votes of the Hindus."
Citing another objectionable part of Vaghela`s speech, the EC notice said in reference to a Maulvi embracing him after he got delighted, Vaghela said, "this is not a sign of love or affection. He is merely measuring your neck so that when the time comes it will be available".
The Commission has prima facie found that Vaghela has committed electoral offences under section 125 of the Representation of People Act and Sections 153(a) (promoting enmity on religious and other grounds), 295(a) (insulting religion) and 505(2) (promoting hatred among classes) of IPC and has also violated the Model Code.
Vaghela, who has earlier been with the BJP before switching his loyalty to the Congress, is also the chairman of Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC).
Gujarat will go to polls in two phases on December 13 and 17. The counting of votes will take place on December 20.