New Delhi: The Election Commission Saturday issued notice to Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma, saying it was evident that the Congress leader “deliberately and wilfully” made remarks about sub-quota for Muslims. Verma said he respected the poll panel but had not said anything wrong.
In its notice, the commission said the model code of conduct specifies that “there shall be no appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes”.
Noting it has received a complaint against the Congress leader that he made the promise during an election meeting in Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh, the poll panel said it had obtained the copy of the video recording which shows that the union minister violated the model code of conduct.
“Having seen it (video recording, we are) prima facie satisfied that Beni Prasad Verma by making the statements has violated the provisions of the model code of conduct and it is evident from the statements that he was well aware that by making such utterances, he was violating the model code of conduct and yet he deliberately and wilfully did the same,” the poll panel said in its notice.
The poll panel also asked him to “explain” why action should not be taken against him. He was told to reply by 5 p.m. Monday.
Verma stuck to his stand.
“I respect the EC… but I don’t remember what I said, in what context, as I have been attending four-five meetings per day for past many months,” Verma told NDTV news channel.
However, Verma asserted that whatever he said while campaigning was not wrong.
Stating that he did talk about sub-quota for Muslims while campaigning recently in Kayamganj constituency in UP’s Farrukhabad district, Verma said: “Around 70 percent of them are labourers… their condition is bad… and they should get reservation in education and jobs.”
Congress leader and Law Minister Salman Khurshid, who had been earlier censured by the poll panel for a similar remark, said “all ministers will speak according to the poll panel’s guidelines”.
“I think all ministers will see the EC guidelines and then speak accordingly,” Khurshid told a news channel.
Khurshid was the first Congress leader who made remarks about a sub-quota for Muslims while campaigning for his wife Louise, who is contesting from the Farrukhabad assembly constituency.
The poll panel had censured Khurshid and expressed hope that he would not violate the model code of conduct again.
“You can’t say anything more or less than the manifesto. You can’t make announcement for the first time on something during election,” said Khurshid after EC’s notice to Verma.
The notice came after a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) delegation Friday complained to the poll panel about Verma and sought stringent action.
Alleging that the remark was planned, BJP leader Arun Jaitley said: “This is not a mistake… again and again they (the Congress) violate the model code of conduct.”
“They are communalising elections. EC has put a ban on it and still they do it. This is not happening without the knowledge of their senior leadership,” Jaitley told reporters in Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly city.