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Authorities in Varanasi on Monday filed a first information report (FIR) against Ajay Rai, the Congress candidate in the constituency, for sporting his party’s election symbol, ‘Hand’, on his ‘kurta’ when he turned up to vote at a polling station there in the morning.
District Magistrate and Returning Officer Pranjal Yadav told reporters that the FIR had been filed against Rai on the instructions of the Election Commission.
He said the FIR had been filed under Sections 126 and 130 of the Representation of the Peoples (RP) Act.
Election officials had said earlier that Rai’s act was a violation of the rules and had sought more details, including video footage of the incident, before deciding on their next course of action. For a similar alleged violation of the laws, the Gujarat police had filed a first information report (FIR) on the directions of the Election Commission against Narendra Modi after he was seen addressing mediapersons near a polling station in Gandhinagar and holding his party’s symbol, ‘Lotus’, in his hand prominently for cameras to see. That was on April 30, when Gujarat and many other parts of the country went to the polls.
Rai told newspersons that his party’s election symbol was part of his dress throughout the election campaign. “I did not flash it like others did,” he said, trying to draw a distinction with what Modi was accused of. “The symbol was pinned to the kurta I wore yesterday and it had stayed on,” he said.
When pressed by reporters, Rai said he was not aware that it was against the election rules to sport the symbol while going to vote or near the polling station. He said nobody had briefed him on this and it was an inadvertent act.
The BJP said the Election Commission must take suo motu action in the matter.
“We would like the Election Commission to ensure that when there is a violation of the Model Code of Conduct, it must be properly taken to its logical conclusion, so that there is no impression that different parties are being treated differently,” senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
The BJP had a showdown with the Commission last week when the district election authorities in Varanasi denied permission to Mr Modi to hold an election rally in the Beniyabagh area of the city on May 8. It had accused the returning officer of acting in a biased and partisan manner and the Commission of inaction in the matter.
Section 126 of the Representation of Peoples (RP) Act prohibits certain activities during the 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for conclusion of poll, including the display of any election mater to the public.
Any person who contravenes the provisions of this section shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
Section 130 of the Act prohibits canvassing in or near a polling station. Among other things, it prohibits the exhibition of any notice or sign relating to the election. Violation of this section is a cognizable offence and it shall be punishable with fine which may extend to Rs 250.
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