Clarify social media post on ‘sovereignty’ attributed to Sonia, EC tells Cong.

As campaign for Karnataka polls draws to a close, BJP seeks de-recognition of Congress over the remark

Updated - May 08, 2023 10:02 pm IST

Published - May 08, 2023 02:01 pm IST - New Delhi

United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi addressing the gathering during a public meeting for the Karnataka Assembly elections, in Hubbali on Saturday.

United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi addressing the gathering during a public meeting for the Karnataka Assembly elections, in Hubbali on Saturday. | Photo Credit: ANI

As the high-pitched and often acrimonious campaign for the Karnataka Assembly polls came to a close, the Election Commission (EC) on May 8 asked the Congress to clarify and take rectification measures with respect to a social media post attributing to its former chief Sonia Gandhi a remark on the “sovereignty” of the State.

The EC direction comes following a complaint by the BJP in which it had sought de-recognition of the Congress and action against Ms. Gandhi over the use of the term in a campaign speech in Hubballi.

Observing that the said tweet violates provisions of the Representation of the People Act, the poll body, in a letter to Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, said: “You are requested to clarify and take rectification measures in respect of the social media post which has been put up on the INC Twitter handle and attributed to Chairperson CPP.”

Also Read | Congress in Karnataka: Resurgent, but with too many claimants for power

Earlier in the day, in a memorandum to the EC, a BJP delegation led by Union Minister Bhupendra Yadav submitted a copy of the Congress tweet quoting Ms. Gandhi, who is the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) chairperson.

The tweet from the Congress official handle said: “CPP Chairperson Smt. Sonia Gandhi ji sends a strong message to 6.5 crore Kannadigas: ‘The Congress will not allow anyone to pose a threat to Karnataka’s reputation, sovereignty or integrity’.”

While the delegation led by Mr. Yadav submitted the memorandum in Delhi, the BJP in Karnataka filed a complaint with the State EC requesting the poll body to issue directions for registration of an FIR against Ms. Gandhi.

‘Pernicious consequences’

“Karnataka is a very important member-state in the Union of India and any call to protect the sovereignty of a member-state of the Union of India amounts to a call for secession and is fraught with perilous and pernicious consequences,” the complaint said.

It said that sovereign by definition is an independent nation. “When a country becomes independent, that country is called a sovereign country. India is a sovereign country and the State of Karnataka is a proud part in it. Till today no one raised any question about the integrity of Kannadigas with the sovereignty of the nation.”

The statement would lead to division on the basis of language and statehood, the complaint claimed.

Though the Congress did not officially comment on the controversy over Ms. Gandhi’s Hubballi speech, party sources admitted that someone from the social media team had ‘misinterpreted’ her speech as she never used the word sovereignty. The source cited above said accountability would be fixed post elections.

Congress files counter-complaint

Meanwhile, the Congress filed a counter-complaint with the poll body in Bengaluru seeking a case against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing him of making a false statement that “Congress is trying to disintegrate Karnataka from Bharat”.

The petition said he made the “false, baseless, frivolous” allegations to seek votes only to solicit votes for the BJP. It said the Prime Minister’s statement was “absolutely perverse and without an iota of responsibility”.

At a public meeting in Mysuru district on Sunday, Mr. Modi had accused the Congress of openly advocating for “separating” Karnataka from India.

The Congress had on Sunday also accused the poll body of being biased for issuing it a notice over the corruption rate card advertisements published in newspapers. The EC had issued the notice following a complaint by the BJP.

In a preliminary response, the party said that it had brought to the commission’s notice “brazen and repeated” violations of electoral guidelines by the BJP top brass, but the poll body had not issued any notice to them.

The reply also said that the 24-hour window provided by the EC for responding to the notice was insufficient.

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