‘Quota statement made as a Congress leader, not as Minister'

Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma is reported to have pleaded with the Election Commission that he is not guilty of violation of the model code of conduct.

The Commission had served a notice on the Minister to explain why action should not be taken against him for his statement on the intent of the Congress to provide job reservation to minorities and daring the Commission to act against him.

The Commission is expected to take a view on Mr. Verma's explanation on Tuesday.

According to his aides, the Minister has explained to the Commission that he made the statement in his capacity as the Congress leader and not as a Minister and that he held the EC in high esteem.

Ironically, the Commission deemed it necessary to slap the show-cause on Mr. Verma even before the ink has dried on the apology letter of the Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid to the EC last week for his statements twice on the same subject.

In its notice to Mr. Verma based on a copy of video recordings of an election rally in Uttar Pradesh addressed by the Minister, the Commission on Saturday had said that the Minister has violated provisions of the Model Code of Conduct.

Mr. Verma had made the statement on reservations three days ago and challenged the Commission to take him on. He said it in the presence of Mr. Khurshid and Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh.

In an unprecedented action, the EC on February 11 had petitioned the President Pratibha Patil seeking ‘immediate and decisive intervention' against the Law Minister for daring the Commission to ‘hang him' on the quota issue. The EC approached the President after Mr. Khurshid ignored its first warning.

The President had forwarded the complaint of the EC to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Curtains came down on the controversy after the Law Minister wrote to the Commission apologising for his statements.

In a memorandum to the EC on Friday seeking action against the Steel Minister, the BJP charged that Union Ministers are carefully chosen to denigrate the Commission.

The party urged the Commission to consider measures more stringent than a mere censure such as prosecution and the debarring of the delinquent Ministers from electioneering.

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