Unnerved by the BJP'svictories in the Uttarakhand and Punjab Assembly elections and the Mumbai and Delhi civic polls, the ruling Congress has now resorted to its time-tested formula of pinning down its opponents by manipulating constitutional bodies. The return of former Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, the electoral tie-up with the Janata Dal (United) and the Apna Dal led by Sone Lal Patel, the resolution of differences with Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath, the coming together of all pro-Hindu forces in the state and the high morale of the cadres in the wake of the recent poll victories have made BJP one of the front runners for taking charge of the dispensation in Lucknow, which is all set to witness a change of guard. That the Congress has its strong reservations about both the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party is well known, but any saffron resurgence is simply unacceptable to the Sonia Gandhi, nee Maino-led party.
Notwithstanding the brave face it is trying to put up, the party knows too well that the crowds come more to see the chopper than its new mascot Rahul Gandhi, who has been making ridiculous statements attacking the party'sown erstwhile Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao on the issue of the demolition of the disputed structure at Ayodhya. Then came the controversial CD, which the BJP said was inadvertently released. Not only was the so-called ?offensive? CD promptly disowned and withdrawn but action was also taken against some of the party office-bearers responsible for the fiasco.
In the most bizarre move of its kind, the Election Commission swung into action and booked an FIR against the party'snational President Rajnath Singh for allegedly violating the model code. Not that the Commission is not empowered to take cognizance of any complaint howsoever motivated but what was shocking and appalling was the cavalier manner in which the party'snational president was sought to be dragged into in what was purely a local case. It was unprecedented.
There have been umpteen cases of model code violation across the country by the Congress party too. For instance, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President Mallikarjuna Kharge was caught red-handed with tonnes of cash for distribution among the voters of Chamundeshwari in the recent by-elections and was handed over to Raymond Peters, the Centre-appointed Election Commission Observer and nominee of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S.R. Reddy. But the poll panel turned a blind eye, leave alone booking the party'snational president Sonia Gandhi.
Going by the Election Commission'snew ?guidelines?, any future violation by any political party would witness its national president being booked and punished. But then, this is not meant for presidents of all political parties but the BJP, which poses the single biggest threat to the ruling UPA. It was also apparently not a collective decision of the Election Commission but that of a nominee of the Congress party in its ranks, Navin Chawla, known for his and his family'sclose proximity with the ?family? since the days of Emergency. No wonder then that the BJP demanded that Election Commissioner Chawla ?should refrain? himself from the hearing in the ?communal? CD case on the grounds that a petition challenging his appointment was pending before the Supreme Court. In its petition to Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswamy, the BJP argued that it has made an application for Chawla'sremoval as an Election Commissioner on the grounds that the trusts run by him had received funding from the local area development funds of Congress MPs (MPLADS).
Top party leaders had marched to Rashtrapati Bhavan soon after Chawla'sappointment twice and submitted a memorandum to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who subsequently forwarded the same to the Prime Minister'sOffice. Thereafter, a group of BJP MPs had challenged Chawla'sappointment in the Supreme Court where the case was being heard. The BJP told the EC that as it had accused Chawla of partiality and bias, there was a conflict of interest in his hearing a case in which some parties had pleaded for freezing the party'sLotus symbol and debarring of its leaders from contesting the elections in Uttar Pradesh. While senior Congress leaders met the EC in a delegation and demanded among other things an investigation into the matter by its pet CBI, the party'sderecognition and action against BJP functionaries, the BSP led by the Taj Corridor scam tainted Mayawati and the Jan Morcha, led by V.P. Singh, the undisputed leader of illegal Bangladeshi jhuggi-jhonpri-dwellers in the national capital, sought BJP'sderecognition. Expressing no surprise over the sudden flood of applications seeking its derecognition, the BJP, in its response, said the Representation of People'sAct (RPA) has no provision For cancellation or withdrawal of registration.
The Act only provides for registration of political parties. BJP also cited the case of Arjun Singh vs BJP in 1992, in which the Commission had already held that there was no such power with the EC to cancel or withdraw the registration of a party. The EC'saction may actually be ?inconsistent? with its constitutional obligations, the party said and asserted that it is the people, who as the ultimate sovereign, have the right to reject or approve a political party. Even as the Election Commission reserved its verdict on the issue till April 19, top party leaders decided to take the matter to the people'scourt. BJP president Rajnath Singh, against whom an FIR has been lodged, and the party top brass including Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha L.K. Advani and Dr Murli Manohar Joshi marched in a procession to the Hazratganj Police Station in Lucknow demanding that they be arrested in the CD case, but the police refused to do so. M. Venkaiah Naidu, Ananth Kumar and Keshrinath Tripathi were among the other leaders who assembled at the party headquarters before marching to the police station.
While the leaders insisted that they wanted to court arrest, state Director General of Police G.L. Sharma said the police was not arresting them as it was still an FIR and not a non-bailable offence. Later, Advani said the BJP leaders had told the police officials that lodging of an FIR against an innocent person like Rajnath Singh was ?bad in taste?. The leader said he respected the Election Commission as a constitutional body but it should not have ordered the lodging of an FIR against Singh who was not at all involved in any way with the release of the controversial CD. Senior Superintendent of Police Jyotinarayan only vindicated the party'sstand when he said the police had not come across any evidence to arrest the BJP president in the case. ?Investigations are on. As of now, there is no evidence against Singh and so we did not arrest him?, Jyotinarayan said. Whether the Election Commission would foil Chawla'smachinations would be known only on April 19, but the common man on the street whether in Delhi or Lucknow totally seems to agree with what Rajnath Singh had to say. ?If the electoral officer commits any faux pas, will it be right to lodge an FIR against the Chief Election Commissioner??