Priyanka backs Khurshid’s ‘freedom to air views’



Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi/Lucknow: Congress’ star campaigner in Uttar Pradesh, Priyanka Gandhi, on Monday backed Law Minister Salman Khurshid, who is facing the Election Commission’s wrath over his aggressive stance on quota for Muslims.

Talking to reporters amid campaigning for party candidates in the state, Priyanka said, “People are free to air their views; we are a democracy. The Election Commission is also free to give its opinion… matter is between two constitutional bodies.”

“Such things happen during elections; (I am) confident that matter will be resolved,” she added.

The Election Commission had on Feb 11 wrote to President Pratibha Patil complaining about the Law Minister's "defiant" attitude on his remarks on minority quota. This followed Khurshid's election rally in Farrukhabad, a day earlier, where he reiterated his promise for increasing the sub-quota for minorities if the Congress was voted to power.

Importantly, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to discuss the matter with senior ministers and party leaders. Khurshid, who spoke to PM yesterday, is also likely to issue a clarification on his stance.

As per reports, Khurshid had told the Prime Minister that there was no question of defiance and he was ready to accept whatever decision is taken with regard to the matter. They added that the party did not want to be seen as defying a constitutional body like the Election Commission.

Addressing a poll rally in Farrukhabad, where his wife Louise Khurshid is the Congress candidate, Khurshid had said: “If they want to hang me they can, they can hang me for committing to people for a quota...We will change the fate of the poor, even if we have to go against Election Commission, we will change the fate of the poor.”

"I will then come and stand in front of the court of the people and fight my case. I want to stand in the court of the people and ask, 'Isn't it the right of the people'?" he stressed.

The poll panel in its letter to President Patil said: "The commission is shocked that instead of being remorseful about the violation of the model code, that carries the consensus of all political parties and the sanction of the Supreme Court, the minister has chosen to be defiant and aggressive. This is unprecedented."

The President forwarded the commission's letter to the Prime Minister's Office for "appropriate action".

The BJP, led by its senior leader LK Advani, has accused Khurshid of playing vote-bank politics and demanded his sacking by the Prime Minister.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also slammed Khurshid today. Kumar demanded that the EC take strong action against Khurshid for violating the model code of conduct. He also accused the UPA government and the Congress of not being serious on the issue.

(With IANS inputs)