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ECI Notices to Congress, Rajeev Chandrasekhar

ECI Notices to Congress, Rajeev Chandrasekhar

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NEW DELHI, Apr 9: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has sent Senior Congress leader Randeep Surjewala a show-cause notice for his reported comments on BJP’s Mathura MP Hema Malini, which the poll body has called “undignified, vulgar and uncivilized.”

The ECI has also directed the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to verify any potential mismatch – between actual and declared assets, and income – in affidavits filed by the union minister and the BJP candidate for the Lok Sabha seat in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram Rajeev Chandrasekhar.

The poll panel’s direction to the CBDT came after the Congress – which leads the opposition United Democratic Front in the southern state – filed a complaint that claimed the Union Minister misrepresented information about assets and income streams. Kerala’s ruling Left Democratic Front – led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s Communist Party of India (Marxist) also filed a complaint.

About comments on Ms Hema Malini, the ECI said the Congress leaders were regular offenders. The party has been asked to list steps taken to ensure that the Commission’s advisories on honour and dignity of women in public discourse are complied with.

Citing its strictures on Supriya Shrinate over the row on Kangana Ranaut, the Commission, its note, said: “It is unfortunate that despite the Commission bringing it to the notice of the party at your level, the campaigners of Indian National Congress are still indulging in utterances that are repugnant to the honour and dignity of women.” “The Commission wishes to reiterate and you will agree that election campaign cannot be allowed to become a platform for any kind of dishonour to Women,” it added.

Controversy over Mr Chandrasekhar’s poll affidavit broke after it showed his income for FY 2021/22 was just ₹ 680. For FY20 and FY23, however, he declared incomes of ₹ 17.5 lakh and ₹ 5.50 lakh.

Mr Chandrasekhar also declared total assets worth ₹ 28 crore; these included cash, bank deposits, holdings in non-banking financial companies and cooperative societies, as well as investments bonds, debentures, shares, units in companies/mutual funds, and other financial instruments.

His movable assets included a vintage motorcycle – a 1942 Red Indian Scout – and other items valued at an estimated ₹ 3.25 crore. His sole declared immovable asset was a plot of non-agricultural land in Bengaluru in Karnataka worth an estimated ₹ 14.4 crore. The opposition had also alleged that the Union Minister did not disclose other owned real estate, including property in Bengaluru.

In addition, the ruling LDF has also claimed Mr Chandrasekhar neglected to disclose his connection to a holding company called Jupiter Capital, despite its website listing him as its ‘founder.’ It has alleged this is an attempt to “hide the complex web of companies used to hide his true assets.” Mr Chandrasekhar has denied all charges and said, “All my disclosures are compliant with the law.”

The Supreme Court has also observed on Tuesday that voters could not have an “absolute right” to details about every asset of an election candidate and the candidates had a right to privacy regarding matters deemed irrelevant to their standing for public office.

In the case of Ms Hema Malini, the BJP had accused Mr Surjewala of making “vile, sexist” remarks against her and tagged the Congress as “misogynistic.” Last week, the party’s IT section chief Amit Malviya had shared an undated video on X in which Mr Surjewala is purportedly making objectionable remarks about the actor-politician, while attacking the BJP.

Mr Surjewala accused the BJP’s IT cell of “distorting facts and spreading lies.” He shared a video clip of the same event, where he is heard saying, “We respect Hema Malini ji because she is married to Dharmendra ji, she is our bahu.” “The BJP is anti-women, so it sees everything from its misogyny-tinted glasses and conveniently spreads lies,” he said in the post.

Recently, Congress’s Supriya Shrinate was accused posting offensive content about actor and BJP candidate Kangana Ranaut. Ms Shrinate has said the posts were made without her knowledge.

Ms Malini has also reacted to her opponents calling her “outsider” for Mathura from where she is contesting the elections for a third consecutive term in the Lok Sabha. Her 10-year record as Mathura MP has turned her into a “brijwasi”, actor-politician Hema Malini said in a rebuttal to her Congress rival’s “outsider” charge in the run-up to Lok Sabha polls.

Mukesh Dhangar, the Congress’s candidate in the temple town, has said this election was a contest between “brijwasi” — used to refer to Mathura residents — and “pravasi” (outsider). Responding to the barb Ms Malini said, “I have become a brijwasi in 10 years. I am a brijwasi anyway because I am a devotee of Lord Krishna. I am proud of the work that I have done here. I am from here.”

“And if you consider me an outsider, then I would like to say that outsiders work better. The people who live here don’t always know what is good or bad, and what can be better, but did not happen. Because we are from outside, we see more and have more experience. So we want more to happen here. As an MP, I got a lot of things done here by coordinating with ministers,” she said.

(Manas Dasgupta)



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