Doda/New Delhi, April 11: The Congress Friday upped the ante in this bitterly fought election, when it complained to the Election Commission against Narendra Modi for filing wrong affidavits, the move coming hours after its leader Rahul Gandhi launched a rare personal attack on the BJP prime ministerial candidate for hiding his marital status.
The Congress, which opinion polls and pundits say, is heading for a big defeat, has been also been criticised for putting up a weak defence against the BJP’s and Modi’s personal onslaughts, both against the UPA government as well as its key personalities, including that of the party, particularly Rahul Gandhi. The latter had so far refrained from making personal attacks on Modi, but has started doing so recently.
Gandhi, addressing a rally in Doda in Jammu, said that Modi has fought many elections in the past, “but not once did he disclose the name of his wife nor even admit he is married”.
Modi had written the name of Jashodaben Chimanlal as the name of his wife in an affidavit while filing his nomination papers in Vadodara, Gujarat for the Lok Sabha election. In previous affidavits for the assembly elections he had left the space blank.
“Though their (BJP) posters say in Delhi that they stand for the rights and respect of women, we have a chief minister putting all his efforts on work to spy on a woman,” said the Gandhi scion while alluding to the reported tracking and stalking of a young woman architect in Gujarat, allegedly on instructions from the chief minister’s office. The incident was dubbed ‘Snoopgate’ by sections of the media.
Congress leader and union minister Kapil Sibal said in New Delhi the party has filed a petition with the Election Commission seeking action against Modi for hiding his marital status in his affidavits earlier.
“The Congress is not interested in attacking anybody over personal matters, but this is also a matter of violating the rule of law,” Sibal said addressing a press conference after filing a complaint against Modi.
“In his affidavit in Vadodara (Lok Sabha constituency of Gujarat), Modi informed that he is married. Prior to that, none of his affidavits mention this. It is hence proven those affidavits were wrong,” said Sibal.
He said Modi in affidavits filed in 2001, 2002, 2007 and 2012, did not reveal he was married.
According to Sibal, the poll panel has assured to examine the complaint.
Sibal said that Modi’s disclosure was prompted by Jashodaben’s interview published in an English daily in February 2014, in which she claimed she was Modi’s wife.
“He was a candidate from Rajkot in 2001, and from Maninagar in 2002, 2007 and 2012 for Gujarat assembly elections. On all such occasions he did not mention in his affidavit that he was married,” Sibal added.
The Bharatiya Janata Party was quick to jump to Modi’s defence and warned the Congress against playing “dirty games”.
BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu said: “My advice to the Congress is – don’t play this dirty game – this will boomerang very heavily on you.”
The Congress also attacked Modi over his speech at a public rally in February in which he said that only a person with no family ties can fight corruption. He presented himself as that man, saying he has no family ties and is single. “Who will I be corrupt for?”
Congress General Secretary Shakeel Ahmed said the party was not raking up personal issues but statements of Modi are in the public domain.
“He gave wrong statements in the public domain. The public meeting was monitored by the Election Commission and the affidavit was given to the poll panel,” Ahmed told reporters.
The BJP in a veiled warning to the Congress, said they too know about several “family issues” of the Gandhi family.
“There are several family issues of the Nehru-Gandhi family that we are aware of. Some of it is also recorded in documents,” BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
“But we will not discuss it in public because we have a standard,” he said.
Modi’s elder brother Somabhai in a statement released through the BJP had said Thursday that the BJP prime ministerial candidate’s marriage should be seen as a “social formality” which happened nearly 50 years ago.