EC not supposed to be browbeaten by 'disgruntled' political party: Jaitley

ANI | Updated: Oct 25, 2017 23:25 IST

New Delhi [India] Oct 25 (ANI): Launching a scathing attack on the Opposition, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said that the Election Commission (EC) is not supposed to be browbeaten by a disgruntled or a losing political party.

Jaitley made the comment while answering a question on Congress' criticism of the Election Commission over the announcement of Gujarat assembly poll date during a press conference here.

Jaitley said that the Congress was adopting double standards over the Election Commission.

"Well, the couple of weeks ago when the Rajya Sabha elections were being held in Gujarat, the Congress was singing praises of the same Election Commission. And, therefore, the Election Commission is not supposed to be browbeaten by a disgruntled or a losing political party. The Election Commission is duty bound to act as per law."

On August 9, Congress President Sonia Gandhi had thanked the EC after it invalidated two ballots by Congress MLAs who had cross-voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party. This had resulted in victory of Congress candidate Ahmed Patel.

Earlier in the day, the Election Commission on Wednesday announced dates for Gujarat Assembly election.

Assembly elections in Gujarat will be held on two days, December 9 for 89 assembly seats and December 14 for 93 seats. Results will be announced for all 182 seats on December 18, along with Himachal Pradesh.

Jaitley further maintained that the EC will function as per law and not as per wishes of the Congress and justified the separate dates for elections to Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, saying if dates for polls in Prime Minister's home state were announced earlier it would have come under prolonged code of conduct, which is against the spirit of democracy.

"If elections are being held at a gap of four to five weeks in two states, isn't it fair that the duration of the length of code of conduct in both the states is similar? To have a 35 day code of conduct in a Congress ruled state (Himachal Pradesh) and a 70-day code of conduct in a BJP ruled state (Gujarat) merely because the Congress feels that would be proper, the Election Commission is not bound by it," Jaitley said.

He further added: "So, far what has been missing in the debate is that in the year 2000-2001 there were serious doubts being cast at that time whether the code of conduct is binding. And, this used to be challenged earlier by the political parties. The first NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee agreed with the Election Commission, and both the Central government and the Election Commission by an order of the Supreme Court got a Supreme Court directive that the code of conduct is binding. When we had discussions at that time with the EC, the other discussion was because policy decisions relating to governance are paralysed during the code of conduct, so it can't be an indefinitely long code of conduct because of it being binding. It would be wholly against the spirit of democracy if the code of conduct is extended to 70-80-90 days."

On Monday, the Congress demanded the EC to immediately announce assembly elections in Gujarat.

Addressing a press conference, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari alleged that the EC was unnecessarily becoming a party in the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) attempt to run away from the elections. (ANI)