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Ashok Lavasa wanted Election Commission to write to PM Modi for his cooperation

Lavasa, however, recorded that he should not only be barred from campaigning but an FIR also be lodged against him.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: May 06, 2019, 08.58 AM IST
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Lavasa took the view that if content could be pulled off social media and candidates forced to take off posters based on the advisory, then it was already being enforced.
New Delhi: Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa wanted the Commission to send a formal communication to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his cooperation in the implementation of the model code of conduct as a first response to complaints against his speeches.

Lavasa had concurred with the district electoral officer that his speech in Latur was “inconsistent” with the EC advisory on not politicising the Pulwama blasts and the Indian attack on a terror camp in Balakot.

However, his suggestion for a reminder to the PM was set aside after other two fellow commissioners — CEC Sunil Arora and commissioner Sushil Chandra — found no merit in the complaint against the PM’s speeches.

ET has reliably gathered that Lavasa, who was finance secretary before joining the EC, then wrote on file asking that reasoned orders on these complaints should be put out in public domain mentioning his dissenting view.

HOW IT STARTED?
A complaint against provocative communal comments by BJP leader Gulab Chand Kataria in Udaipur seems to have set off the dissension row within the EC, especially after Chandra recorded that he be condoned as this was his first offence.

Lavasa, however, recorded that he should not only be barred from campaigning but an FIR also be lodged against him. Eventually, the EC just handed him a censure.

Even on the issue of Pragya Thakur’s various condemnable comments, one of the commissioners is believed to have suggested a lenient view as she had made the remarks before filing her nomination. Lavasa, however, disagreed and requested a meeting of the EC where his view prevailed and a 72-hour ban was handed out.

Lavasa also took strong exception that the April 7 complaint against BJP Gujarat chief Jitubhai Vaghani’s provocative communal comments reached commissioners on April 23, the day Gujarat went to polls. He then pushed for a 72-hour ban on him campaigning outside the state, which too came on April 30.

Around this time, Lavasa suggested that a mechanism be set up for the EC to deal with complaints on a daily basis. However, it was felt that doing so midway through the elections may not be conducive.

THE COMPLAINT BOX
The first complaint against the PM, sources said, was put up to the EC on April 25 just after the Supreme Court had pulled up the EC on delays. In due course, there were three PM speeches that came under the scanner for content allegedly in violation of EC’s advisory against politicising defence issues. District electoral officers in all three cases apparently recorded that the content was either “inconsistent” or “violative” of the advisory. The process was further delayed when officials were asked to study the full text of the speech.

This set off a debate within the EC whether the advisory itself is legally enforceable like the model code. Lavasa took the view that if content could be pulled off social media and candidates forced to take off posters based on the advisory, then it was already being enforced.

Eventually, he was outnumbered by his fellow commissioners and the PM got a clean chit.

When it came to the communal overtones of the comments by the PM and BJP president Amit Shah on why Rahul Gandhi was contesting from Wayanad, Lavasa took the view that it went against the spirit of the MCC and the Representation of the People Act which disallows candidates to invoke religion as a way to seek votes.

However, sources said, the alternate view was that neither of two could be inferred as directly seeking votes while making those comments. The matter was closed between technicalities of the letter and spirit of the relevant provisions.
(Catch all the Business News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on The Economic Times.)

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