The Election Commission in Madhya Pradesh on Saturday served a notice on BJP's Lok Sabha candidate Sadhvi Pragya Thakur over her controversial remarks about Hemant Karkare, the senior police officer who was killed in the terrorist attack in Mumbai on November 26, 2008.
The Commission served the notice even after she had withdrawn the remarks and asked why action should not be taken against her for breach of election code. Thakur has been given 24 hours to respond.
The District Returning Officer Sudam Khade was asked if the notice could be served despite her withdrawal of the remarks. He said the commission would take a call on receiving her reply.
Pragya Thakur had on Thursday bragged that Karkare died during the attacks as she "cursed" him for torturing her. But once the statement caused a furore among the BJP's supporters and adversaries alike, she apologised for the remarks. She said those were personal observations since she was tortured while facing trial for alleged involvement in the bomb blasts in Malegaon.
State chief electoral officer V. L. Kanta Rao said, "We took suo motu cognisance of the statement and sought a report from the assistant returning officer (ARO) on the matter. We got the report this morning and we have issued notice."
The organisers of the meeting addressed by Thakur were also served the notice, said the commission. Can the commission act against the candidate if she failed to respond to the notice? The commission was apparently unsure, but said that it would be decided once the deadline for the candidate's response passed.
One of the officials attached to the Election Commission said the candidates and the organisers are granted permission for meeting certain conditions while the Model Code of Conduct is in force.
Use of objectionable language to defame a person was prohibited and the candidate could even face disqualification.
The BJP has been facing the supporters' flak for fielding Pragya who has embarrassed the leadership.
But the Sadhvi found an unexpected supporter in Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was asked why Pragya was given the ticket despite charges of violence against her. Modi said if the person responsible for 1984 riots against Sikhs could be made the Prime Minister what was wrong in fielding Sadhvi.
Pragya's rival Digvijaya Singh has refused to speak about her comments. He has, however, questioned the BJP leaders of their comments about 'Hindu terrorism'. He said the BJP president owes an answer on how a home secretary to the Union Government who first officially used the term Hindu terror was made a party member and subsequently made a minister.
Pragya, meanwhile, took a cue from the PM's remarks and launched an offensive against Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath. She said Kamal Nath was involved in the 1984 carnage after Indira Gandhi's death. He should know how she was tortured in custody.
(Our News Desk can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)