Union Law and Justice Minister Salman Khurshid has denied that he had violated any provisions of the model code of conduct by stating that the Congress party, if it comes to power in Uttar Pradesh, would provide 9 per cent quota for minorities, particularly Muslims, within the 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes.
In his reply, on Thursday, to the Election Commission's show-cause notice dated January 10, seeking his explanation for making such a statement “violating the model code,” Mr. Khurshid said he had only highlighted what was there in the Congress manifesto of 2009 Lok Sabha polls. Moreover, he had not spoken as a minister but as a political leader.
Sources in the Commission said the reply was likely to be placed before the full Commission — Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi and Election Commissioners V.S. Sampath and H.S. Brahma — on Saturday for “appropriate decision.”
Mr. Khurshid had allegedly made the statement while speaking at an election rally in Farrukhabad in U.P., where his wife Louise Khurshid is contesting as the Congress candidate.
Justifying his statement, Mr. Khurshid said he was guided by the (Congress) party's principles and since the candidates were yet to file the nomination papers he wondered how it could amount to violation of the provisions of the model code.
The Commission, in its notice, issued on the basis of a complaint from the Bharatiya Janata Party, had stated that the Minister had made an announcement at an “election rally at Farrukhabad to the effect that the Congress would provide a quota of 9 per cent reservation to the minorities within the existing quota of 27 per cent for OBCs and that he had also indicated that Muslims would benefit from this move.”
The Commission pointed to the provisions of the model code of conduct for political parties/candidates, which says:
“Para 1(3): There shall be no appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes. ……
Para VII: “The Party in power whether at the Centre or in the State or States concerned, shall ensure that no cause is given for any complaint that it has used its official position for the purposes of its election campaign
Para VII (vi): From the time elections are announced by the Commission, Ministries and other authorities shall not announce any financial grants in any form or promises thereof......, which may have the effect of influencing the voters in favour of the party in power”
The Commission had asked Mr. Khurshid to reply by 5 p.m. on January 12 “failing which it would be assumed that you have nothing to say in the matter and action as deemed fit would be initiated against you without any further notice to you.”
Earlier the Minister, interacting with the journalists here, denied that he had any regret for making such a statement. “No. Why should I regret? You regret when you do something unlawful.”
“We have to file a reply. How can you not file a reply? Yes, I have filed the reply,” he said to another question.
Ms. Khurshid has also been served a show-cause notice by the U.P. election authorities.