Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath has moved the Supreme Court after the Election Commission revoked his “star campaigner” status for violating the model code of conduct while campaigning for the bypolls in the state.
Senior advocate and Congress leader Vivek Tankha tweeted that Nath’s plea challenges the order of the EC as illegal and in violation of his and the party's constitutional and statutory rights.
Apart from seeking quashing of EC's October 30 order, the Congress has sought framing of norms for speeches during campaigning by star campaigners or campaigners, "keeping in mind the right to freedom of speech and expression and concept of democratic elections".
Nath, who is currently the president of Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee, has said in his plea that the EC has passed the order without any notice or hearing him based on a complaint by the BJP against a speech delivered on October 13.
Amid the intensely fought Bihar elections, Madhya Pradesh is witnessing sort of a mini-poll considering that voters will cast their ballot in 28 assembly seats on November 3. The results will be declared on November 10.
In his plea, the former Union minister and nine-time Member of Parliament has said that leaders of the BJP have been “repeatedly making statements ex-facie in violation” of the model code during campaigning for the byelections. “It is reiterated that despite use of such language in public view and blatant violation of the Model Code of Conduct, the Respondent No.1 (EC) has not taken any such action against any leaders of BJP or the party itself for allowing its leaders to repeatedly violate provisions of MCC,” it said.
The poll panel on Friday took note of alleged breach of "ethical and dignified behaviour" and delisted Nath as a "star campaigner”. While the political party pays for the expenditure of a star campaigner, who is usually an influential leader or a popular face, the candidate pays for the expenditure of other campaigners. Since there is an EC-mandated cap on poll expenses, having Nath to canvas for a candidate could restrict his/her other plans.
The EC said it has carefully considered the matter and has observed with "displeasure that Kamal Nath, despite being a leader of a political party, is repeatedly violating the provisions of Model Code of Conduct and breaching the ethical and dignified behaviour". The commission referred to his remarks against Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
Nath had used the words "mafia" and "milawat khor" against a political rival at a recent campaigning event. According to the EC, Nath said, “Your God is that mafia through whom you made the identity of Madhya Pradesh. Your God is a milawat-khor (one who adulterates).” Last week, the EC had asked Nath not to use words like "item" in campaigning. He had used the jibe to hit out at state minister and BJP candidate Imarti Devi at a rally.
The bypolls in MP are being held following the resignation of 25 MLAs, most moved to the BJP along with Jyotiraditya Scindia, and the death of three legislators earlier. This had paved the way for BJP's Shivraj Singh Chouhan to take over as Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister for the fourth time.