The Election Commission (EC) has issued a show cause notice to Union Minister Nitin Gadkari for allegedly making statements to the effect of asking the voters to ‘take bribes if offered by someone and then decide how to vote’ during campaigning for the state assembly polls.
Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari during an election rally in Karad, Maharashtra on Monday. He made the controversial statements in his rallies on Saturday and Sunday. Pic/PTI
The EC has asked Gadkari to reply by Wednesday evening, failing which the poll body will take a decision without further reference to the BJP leader. In the notice, the poll body stated that the district electoral officer of Latur had informed the poll watchdog that while addressing a public meeting in Nilenga assembly constituency on Sunday, Gadkari allegedly made statements imploring the voters to take a bribe if offered by someone.
According to the English translation of the Marathi speech made by the BJP leader, he had allegedly said, “Now I am watching your faces and I have some skill of predicting the future by way of face reading. You have an opportunity of ‘Laxmi darshan’ in the next 10 days.
Special people to get foreign made, ordinary people to get local brand.... All are Gandhivadis asking for Rs 5,000. In these days of inflation, keep one thing in mind; eat what you wish and drink what you desire. Keep whatever you get. This is the time when illegally earned money can go to the poor. Therefore, do not say no to Laxmi.
But think while you vote; your vote should be for the development of Maharashtra.” Gadkari allegedly also told people that women would get saris and young boys will get pants and shirts. The EC has sent him copies of the CD carrying his speech, along with the translated version of the operative portion of his Marathi speech in English.
The poll body said his statement amounts to ‘abetting and promoting the electoral offence of bribery’ within the meaning of section 171B and 171E of the Indian Penal Code. The EC has also reminded the leader of sub para (4) of para 1 of Model Code of Conduct (parties and candidates shall avoid scrupulously all activities which are ‘corrupt practices’ and offences under the election law, such as bribing of voters’.
'Laxmi darshan' for journalists
Meanwhile, Gadkari also fired up a controversy over his statements made at a poll rally in Sawantwadi on Saturday, when he asked journalists to ‘keep the packages (of money) they get during the election season’. “In the next 10-12 days, you journalists will get ‘Laxmi darshan’, be it reporters or editors.
There are separate packages for reporters, newspapers and their owners. Diwali has come. I have one request; keep whatever you get. Eat whatever you can,” Gadkari said.