Poll panel censures Khurshid for quota announcement

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New Delhi: In an embarrassment to the Congress during the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, the Election Commission Thursday censured Law Minister Salman Khurshid for his nine percent job quota promise to minorities and said that as a minister he had the responsibility of ensuring the model code of conduct in “letter and spirit”.

In its 15-page order the commission said Salman Khurshid had violated the model code of conduct by making a “new” promise of nine percent quota from within 27 percent quota for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and rejected his argument that there was no appeal or intent to secure votes on the basis of religion, caste or creed.

“The Commission, therefore, cannot help expressing its deep anguish and disappointment over his violation of model code of conduct… the commission has come to the inescapable conclusion that the respondent made a new promise to a distinct targeted group of the electorate among the minorities that nine percent seats would be reserved for them from out of the overall quota of 27 percent for the other backward classes,” the poll panel said.

In its indictment of Khurshid, the commission also rejected his party’s contention that the promise was made by Khurshid not as a minister but as a Congress leader.

“The commission is also satisfied that the above promise was made by Salman Khurshid as a union minister for Law and Minorities Affairs.”

“As a union minister for Law and Minorities Affairs, he has an added responsibility of ensuring that the model code of conduct is observed in letter and spirit so that elections are conducted in a free and fair manner and all political parties enjoy a level playing field in the matter of their election,” the commission said.

“In the above circumstances, the commission hereby censures Salman Khurshid and hopes and expects that such violations of model code of conduct would not be repeated by him in future,” the poll panel said.

Khurshid had said last month during a rally in Farrukhabad, where his wife Louise is seeking election to the state assembly, that if the Congress comes to power in Uttar Pradesh it would provide nine percent job quota to minorities.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had made the complaint against Khurshid.

Khurshid in his reply said there was no appeal or intent to secure votes on the basis of religion, caste or creed and his remarks were part of existing assurance by the Congress that it would take all steps to address social inequalities.

Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi had appeared for Khurshid and told the poll panel that his promise was conditional declaration of intent. Singhvi said that Khurshid had not referred to any minority community. BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad appeared before the commission to support his party’s complaint.

The Commission order came down on both Congress and BJP for giving “political twist” to the issue.

“The learned counsel for both the parties have, however, sought to give this simple issue a political twist and convert it into a contentious political fight on grounds of their ideologies and policies,” the order said.

The seven-phased election to Uttar Pradesh assembly will conclude March 3.