Acting on a complaint filed by the Congress against Madhya Pradesh Leader of Opposition Gopal Bhargava saying the Congress candidate for the Jhabua by-election represented Pakistan, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has advised Mr. Bhargava to be “more careful in future”, according to the order dated on Monday and published on Wednesday.
The ECI’s order cited the complaint by J.P. Dhanopia of the Congress state unit on September 30. It said Mr. Bhargava said at an election rally that day that BJP candidate Bhanu Bhuriya “represents India”, while Congress candidate Kantilal Bhuria “represents Pakistan”. He asked the crowd not to vote for the ‘candidate representing Pakistan’.
Such statements, the ECI order said, “have an effect of aggravating differences between the supporters of the two contesting candidates by referring them as representatives of two countries, namely India and Pakistan (sic)”.
The order cited the MCC (model code of conduct) saying, “No party or candidate shall indulge in any activity which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different caste and communities, religious or linguistic.” Finding that Mr. Bhargava’s statement violated this provision of the MCC, the ECI advised “him to be more careful in future while addressing public in any meeting, public processions, public rallies, road shows and interviews, public utterances in media (electronic, print, social media), etc. in connection with the ongoing bye-elections.”
The Jhabua bye-election, which will be held on October 21, was necessitated as the sitting BJP MLA, Guman Singh Damor, got elected to the Lok Sabha from Ratlam.