MP bypolls: Removal of Kamal Nath’s star campaigner status by EC ‘unfair’, says Cong MP; Nath goes to SC

Congress Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Tankha called the Election Commission’s decision “unfair” and said such “sarcastic comments” between candidates is the norm in poll campaign worldwide
VIVEK TANKHA

Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath has moved the Supreme Court challenging an order of the Election Commission to revoke the Congress leader’s “star campaigner” status for violations of the model code during campaign for the bypolls in 28 assembly constituencies in the state.

Senior lawyer and Congress Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Tankha told PTI that the former chief minister has challenged the EC’s decision on various grounds and an urgent hearing on his plea would be sought.

The plea has been filed through advocate-on-record Varun Chopra and the defects pointed out in it by the apex court registry have been cured, said Tankha.

The poll panel on Friday took note of alleged breach of “ethical and dignified behaviour” and revoked the “star campaigner” status of the Congress leader.

While the political party pays for the expenditure of a star campaigner, the candidate pays for the expenditure of other campaigners.

In the order, the poll panel said, “…for repeated violation of Model Code of Conduct and for completely disregarding the advisory issued to him, the Commission hereby revokes the status of leader of political party (Star Campaigner) of Kamal Nath, Ex-Chief Minister, Madhya Pradesh, with immediate effect for the current Bye-elections of Legislative Assembly of Madhya Pradesh.”

It said no permission will be granted by authorities to Nath as a star campaigner.

“However, if any campaign is done by Kamal Nath from now onwards, the entire expenditure related to travel, stay and visit will be completely borne by the candidate in whose constituency he carries out campaigning,” it said.

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.

He had used the words “mafia” and “milawat khor” against a political rival at a recent campaigning event.

The commission had announced the poll schedule on September 29 and the MCC came into immediate effect. Campaigning for the bypolls ends on November 1.

Meanwhile, Congress Rajya Sabha MP and senior lawyer Vivek Tankha termed the revocation of star campaigner status of former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath as “unfair”, and said such “sarcastic comments” between candidates is the norm in poll campaign worldwide, including the US.

“If you stop the election campaign of parties this way and not allow leaders to criticise each other, then it is not fair,” Tankha said.

“There will be sarcastic comments (in poll campaigns). Aren’t (US President) Trump and (Democratic presidential candidate) Joe Biden trading sarcasm? Doesn’t sarcasm happen in Britain? All over the world, political parties exchange sarcasm during campaigning,” he claimed.

Tankha said that the EC’s action against Nath was against the constitutional provisions of freedom of speech, adding it was “surprising” that it came in the last round of campaigning before polls are held on November 3, and that too “without giving any fresh notice”.

He alleged that the ruling BJP made a complaint about Nath’s remarks after getting worried over the huge crowds the former CM was drawing during the campaign.

Tankha said he and senior Congressman and lawyer Kapil Sibal will represent Nath in his legal fight against the EC order.

He claimed that the inclusion or exclusion of a person in the star campaigner list was the prerogative of the party and was outside the jurisdiction of the EC.

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