The Election Commission on Sunday withdrew its show-cause notice to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for alleged violation of the Model Code of Conduct, saying the provision under which it was issued is now under review.
“The Commission is of the considered view that due to multi-fold expansion of digital and electronic media, the extant Model Code of Conduct, Section 126 of the RP Act, 1951, and other related provisions require revisiting to cater to the requirement and challenges of the present and emerging situations,” it said while withdrawing the notice.
The poll body also decided to set up a panel to suggest amendments to a provision in the election law barring campaigning 48 hours ahead of polling, following complaints that it has failed to keep pace with information technology. The proposed committee will have members from the poll panel, the information and broadcasting, law and IT ministries, in addition to those from the National Broadcasters Associations and the Press Council of India.
The order comes in the wake of controversies over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s FICCI meeting, Rahul Gandhi’s TV interviews and the release of BJP manifesto in Gujarat — all after campaigning had ended in the state.
The poll body had on December 13 issued the show cause notice to Rahul Gandhi for “prima facie” violating the provisions of the election law and the model code by giving interviews to TV channels in Gujarat.
The panel will “examine these provisions in the prevailing context of communication technologies and suggest required changes”, it said.
The commission accepted that Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act does not take into account the revolution in communication technology. “It appears imperative to revisit the provisions relating to the last 48 hours before completion of poll to appropriately address challenges unleashed by fast-changing technologies in the context of multi-phase polls,” the commission said.
Rahul Gandhi on Sunday hosted a dinner for party MPs and senior leaders as well as leaders of opposition parties. A number of senior opposition leaders attended the dinner here along with Congress MPs and the party’s state chiefs and legislative party leaders, a move viewed as an attempt to bring them closer to Rahul Gandhi.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, NCP leader Praful Patel, TMC’s Derek O’Brien, former JD (U) chief Sharad Yadav, Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav, RJD’s Misa Bharati and Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav also attended the event.