New Delhi : In a setback to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Election Commission Tuesday directed it to strongly condemn a controversial CD for election campaign in Uttar Pradesh in which Muslims had been denigrated.
In a 21-page order, the commission said some statements by senior BJP leaders had created a "genuine doubt" in the minds of people whether the party disowned the CD and condemned it, or stood by the comments made in it.
"The party should come out with unequivocal and unambiguous declaration that it strongly condemns the contents of the CD so that the stand of the party before the commission becomes publicly known to the country and public at large."
Only then, the commission said, will misgivings or apprehensions in the minds of people, arising from distribution and dissemination of the CD and its contents, stand dispelled and removed forthwith.
The order also wanted the public condemnation of the CD by the BJP to be given wide publicity in print and electronic media, both at the national and local levels, especially in Uttar Prdesh.
"The commission would, however, like to make it clear to all concerned in the matter that the matter is not being closed by the commission with the present order," it said, asking for compliance report from BJP in 15 days.
The party, however, chose not to react to the order immediately. "We have just received the 21-page report. We are examining the contents carefully and will react accordingly," party spokesperson Prakash Javdekar said.
"We have been given 15 days time. We will take appropriate action on the order accordingly," Javdekar told IANS.
The Election Commission's order was spelt out after it heard petitions asking it to derecognise the BJP for the CD. The commission said it reserved the right to take action against the party, pending a report from the Uttar Pradesh Police.
The police is investigating whether leaders of the BJP were, indeed, involved in the production and distribution of the CD, even though the BJP described it as a junior functionary's "misadventure" and declined to take the blame.
"The commission will assess the situation based on the progress of investigation that is going on and decide on appropriate course of action at a later stage if the situation so warrants", the order said.
The party claimed before the commission that the CD, released by a senior leader Lalji Tandon on April 4 in Lucknow, was not part of official campaign material and that a junior worker had made it – an appeal dismissed by the commission.
The commission said the model code of conduct for elections, the Representation of Peoples Act, the Indian Penal code and the Constitution prohibited the parties from indulging in such objectionable acts of omission and commission.