NEW DELHI: The Election Commission on Saturday issued notice to the Union Steel Minister, Mr Beni Prasad Verma over his remarks on sub-quota for minorities, holding that prima facie it was a violation of the model code of conduct and sought his reply by Monday evening.
Mr Verma is the second Union minister after Law Minister, Mr Salman Khurshid who has been issued notice from the poll body for poll code violation over the sub-quota remarks.
The commission, which examined the video recordings of Mr Verma’s speech at a rally in Farrukhabad in UP, said it “is prima facie satisfied” that the Steel Minister, “by making the aforesaid statements, has violated the aforesaid provisions of the model code of conduct”.
The EC notice further states, “It is evident from the above statements of Shri Beni Prasad Verma that he was well aware that by making such utterances, he was violating the model code of conduct and yet he deliberately and wilfully did the same.”
The commission asked Mr Verma to explain his position by 5 p.m. on February 20, as to why action should not be taken against him for violating the provisions of model code of conduct.
In case Mr Verma fails to reply to the notice, the EC will decide the matter without any further reference to him, the notice said.
Sources said the Election Commission had taken serious note of his comments, particularly for daring the poll body to take action against him.
While addressing a poll rally on Wednesday night in Farukkabad in the presence of the Congress general-secretary, Mr Digvijay Singh and the Union Law Minister,
Mr Beni had said, “Reservation for Muslims will be increased and if the EC wants, it can now issue a notice to me.”
Mr Verma said in Lucknow on Saturday that his remarks were not intentional and were a slip of tongue.
“I have been addressing four to five rallies everyday and sometimes I fail to pay attention that in which reference I am saying something,” Mr Verma said, adding he respected the Election Commission and every person should do so.
The EC notice states further that since the model code of conduct for political parties and candidates is in force since December 24, where it is laid down that “there shall be no appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes…”
It also stated that “the party in power whether at the Centre or in the state or states concerned, shall ensure that no cause is given for any complaint that it has used its official position for the purpose of its election campaign,…”
Besides, the mode code also seeks to ensure that “ministers and other authorities shall not announce any financial grants in any form or promises thereof…, which may have the effect of influencing the votes in favour of the party in power.”