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Poll Body Scraps Notice To Rahul Gandhi For Interview Before Gujarat Vote

Rahul Gandhi gave an interview just before the second phase of polling in Gujarat (File)

New Delhi:  The Election Commission has withdrawn a notice it served to Congress president Rahul Gandhi for an interview that he gave just before the second phase of voting for Gujarat elections. The Congress had protested the action, calling for action against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah for what they said was similar rule-breaking. The Commission said based on Congress appeal, it has formed a panel to examine whether changes should be made to the model conduct rules which come into effect before elections.The interview of Mr Gandhi, aired by a local television channel in Gujarat ahead of voting, became a new flashpoint between the Congress and the BJP on Wednesday. The Election Commission had issued a notice to Mr Gandhi – saying he “prima facie” violated the model code of conduct – following a complaint by the BJP.

The Model Code – guidelines for political parties ahead of elections – bars them from commenting about the election for 48 hours before polling. Under it, the media is also not allowed to broadcast anything related to the elections in that period. The campaign for the phase two of the bitterly-contested elections in Gujarat had ended on Tuesday.

rahul gandhi

Election Commission had asked television channels to stop airing the interview

The BJP, which ruled Gujarat for 22 years and is seeking fifth straight term, said Mr Gandhi had “violated” the Model Code of Conduct out of “desperation”. “The Congress is so scared and Rahul Gandhi is desperate to save his face. That is why he violated the Model Code and gave interviews,” union minister Piyush Goyal told reporters in Delhi. “We don’t think such interviews are allowed in the 48 hours prior to polls. We have never given such interviews,” he added.

Earlier, the Election Commission had asked television channels to stop airing the interview and directed the state election body to file police cases against violators. Later in the evening, the Commission asked Mr Gandhi to send his response by 5 pm tomorrow – the day votes will be counted.

Meeting election officials in Delhi late in Wednesday evening, the Congress said the Prime Minister and Mr Shah have both violated the model code. PM Modi has given a speech at FICCI and Mr Shah gave an interview to a television channel on Wednesday.

Mr Surjewala said, “We are on record to say the Gujarat chief minister and Gujarat BJP chief are calling up television channels and threatening them. Union minister Piyush Goyal has also said that cases will be registered against those airing Gandhi’s interviews,” he was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India.

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Written by Anadkat Madhav

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