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Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls: Congress approaches EC seeking safety, security of its MLAs

Congress today approached the Election Commission asking it to ensure the safety and security of its MLAs from Gujarat, ahead of the August 8 Rajya Sabha election.
Reported by: PTI New Delhi August 02, 2017 20:51 IST

The Congress today approached the Election Commission asking it to ensure the safety and security of its MLAs from Gujarat, ahead of the August 8 Rajya Sabha election in the state. The party also alleged that its MLAs from Gujarat, who have found a safe haven in a Karnataka resort, were being terrorised and intimidated by the central security forces, used by the central government in garb of income tax investigations against Karnataka Minister D K Shivkumar. 

A delegation of Congress leaders comprising Kapil Sibal, Vivek Tankha, Rajiv Shukla, Manish Tewari, Randeep Surjewala and Madhu Goud met the Election Commission and sought its intervention in ensuring that no coercive steps were taken against its MLAs in order to "force" them to switch sides. 

This is the second time the Congres has approached the poll body in as many days. A delegation of Congress leaders had met the EC yesterday against the use of NOTA in RS poll. 

"In these circumstances, it is imperative that in order to ensure free, fair and transparent elections, no coercive steps be taken against these MLAs till the casting of votes on August 8. 

"As a Constitutional watchdog for ensuring transparency, free and fair elections, we implore the Election Commission to immediately issue appropriate directions to ensure that the safety and security of the MLAs is not jeopardised and their liberties protected to enable them to effectively cast their votes on August 8," said the Congress memorandum to the EC. 

After meeting the EC, Sibal told reporters that they made a representation on behalf of the Congress against the way the Centre raided in Bengaluru through income tax department officials along with the CRPF men. 

"They tried to deter/scare the MLAs there. It never happened so in the history. It is for the first time that the central forces, that too CRPF men with AK-47, went to a state without asking the state government concerned first. This has happened for the first time in India's history. 

"They are aware...Our MLAs were being threatened, deterred; their families were being threatened, deterred. Hence, it was required that they were taken to Bengaluru. They are aware we took them there from security point of view. Still, they want to deter our MLAs. We suspect they will try to arrest our MLAs somehow so that they cannot take part in voting for the August 8 Rajya Sabha election," he said. 

Sibal said such things should not happen and the EC should give some directive that the central forces cannot go there without the EC's permission. 

"We believe the EC will take some constructive steps. We have said it is an attack on the democracy, the Constitution. This is unprecedented. It is the duty of the EC to ensure adequate security arrangements are made when voting takes place on August 8. And I am sure it will happen so," he said. 

The Congress leaders also alleged that they feared the Gujarat police will lodge false cases against their MLAs and try and arrest them to prevent them from voting in the August 8 election. 

"This strikes at the root of our democratic traditions," the party said, adding that the safety and security of MLAs and protection of their personal liberties is a sine qua non for exercising their franchise on August 8.