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Aircraft land Sonia, Jogi in soup
EC issues notice on code violation
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

Opposition Leader and Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi walks along with unidentified officials during her election campaign in Chhattisgarh’s Bhillai town
Opposition Leader and Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi (third from left) walks along with unidentified officials during her election campaign in Chhattisgarh’s Bhillai town on Tuesday. — AFP photo

New Delhi, November 18
In a major jolt to the Congress, the Election Commission tonight issued a show-cause notice to the party president, Ms Sonia Gandhi, and the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister, Mr Ajit Jogi, for violating the model code of conduct.

The commission, issuing the notice, said they had used the state government aircraft during electioneering and asked them to reply within seven days as to why the recognition as a national party should not be “suspended or withdrawn” from the Congress for violating the code.

State government aircraft, according to the notice, have been used by leaders of the Congress, including the president of the party, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Chief Minister Ajit Jogi and the Speaker of the Madhya Pradesh Assembly, Mr Shriniwas Tiwari, in violation of the code and its specific directives.

The notice, addressed to the president of the Congress, also cites violation of the directions of the Election Commission for ensuring free and fair elections by the party leaders.

A press note, issued after a full commission meeting chaired by CEC J. M. Lyngdoh, said it was “prima facie of the view that the provisions of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, are squarely attracted in the present case of the use of the aircraft by the leaders of the Congress in violation of the model code of conduct and the lawful directions and instructions of the Commission.”

The commission asked the party to show cause within a period of seven days as to why its recognition as a national party might not be suspended or withdrawn.

“In the event of default of the party to respond to the present notice within the time stipulated, it will be presumed that the party has nothing to say in the matter and the Election Commission will take appropriate action or decision without further reference to the party,” it said.

The commission said it had received several complaints that aircraft belonging to the state government were being “misused” for campaigning by Congress leaders.

“On inquiry, the Commission has found that the aircraft, namely, Beechcraft B200 aircraft VT-MPG and EC-135 and helicopter VT-CGH, both owned by the Chhattisgarh Government, have been used on and after October 6 up to November 12” for as many as 10 times, the order said.

The poll panel brought to the attention of the Congress that it was a well-settled fact that the model code came into operation from the date of announcement of the election schedule, which had come into force in the state from October 6.

Noting that to ensure a level playing field for all parties in the fray, the commission recalled as having directed that there should be an absolute ban on the use of state-owned aircraft at state cost for any reason, including security, and no exception could be made, except in the case of the Prime Minister.

The commission said Ms Sonia Gandhi had used the helicopter on October 10, when she had travelled to several places from Raipur, including Hyderabad, Sriperumbudur and Chennai.

Mr Jogi had utilised the helicopter once and the aeroplane several times, while the Madhya Pradesh Assembly Speaker once.


Cong points at PM using planes
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 18
The Congress tonight said it would give an appropriate and comprehensive reply to the show-cause notice issued to it by the Election Commission for violating the model code of conduct.

Reacting to the notice against party president Sonia Gandhi, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi and Madhya Pradesh Assembly Speaker Shriniwas Tiwari, the party spokesman, Mr Anand Sharma, told The Tribune that “we feel that the party leaders have not violated any code of conduct”.

What needed to be examined was that when the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister were allowed to hire IAF planes for the BJP election campaign, “why is there a bar on other parties hiring planes owned by state governments?"

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