Mumbai/New Delhi: Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has stoked a controversy by allegedly asking voters at a public meeting in poll-bound Maharashtra to accept bribes, prompting the Election Commission to issue him a show cause notice on Monday.
Holding that the statements prima facie violated the provisions of the Model Code of Conduct, the EC asked him to reply by Wednesday evening, failing which the poll body will take a decision without further reference to the BJP leader.
Gadkari, a senior BJP leader, had allegedly said during a public meeting in Latur yesterday: "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 next 10 days. Special people to get foreign made, ordinary people to get local brand...”
"All are Gandhivadis asking for Rs 5000. 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 poor. Therefore, do not say no to Laxmi. But think while you vote. Your vote should be for the development of Maharashtra,” he said.
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 EC said the district electoral officer of Latur had informed it that Gadkari, while addressing a public meeting in Nilenga assembly constituency, allegedly made ‘statements to the effect of inducing the voters to take bribe if offered by someone and then decide how to vote'.
EC said his statement amounts to ‘abetting and promoting the electoral offence of bribery' within the meaning of Section 171 B read with Section 17l E of the IPC as it includes offering food, drink or entertainment.
Gadkari courted another controversy by allegedly asking journalists to "keep the packages (money) they get during the election season" from Congress and NCP while addressing a public meeting in Sawantwadi in coastal Konkan on Saturday.
"In the next 10-12 days, you journalists will have 'Laxmi darshan'...Be it reporters or editors, there are separate packages for reporters, newspapers and their owners," Gadkari reportedly said.
"Diwali has come. I have one request, keep whatever you get. Eat whatever you can," he allegedly said.
The state secretariat and legislature journalists association flayed Gadkari's remarks.
"Gadkari's comments are highly objectionable," president of Mantralaya Vidhimandal Vartahar Sangh Pravin Puro said.
Maharashtra is going to polls on October 15.
In the Latur public meeting, Gadkari allegedly told people that while women will get sarees, the young boys will get pant-shirt.
While issuing the show cause notice, the poll panel also reminded Gadkari of sub para (4) of para 1 of the Model Code of Conduct which states that parties and candidates shall avoid scrupulously all activities which are 'corrupt practices' and offences under the election law, such as bribing of voters.