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In Congress Leader’s Response To Poll Panel, A Barb On Hate Speech

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The Model Code exists to “punish perpetrators of hateful and divisive speeches,” Priyank Kharge wrote.

Bengaluru:

Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge’s son Priyank Kharge has strongly refuted BJP allegations of “abuse” and “invoking caste to create disaffection between people” in his response to a notice from the Election Commission. Besides making his case, his three-page response also carried a sting — one in which he reminded the Commission of its duty to curb hate speech.  

The poll body had sent Mr Kharge a showcause notice over his disparaging remarks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a public gathering in Karnataka.

Alleging that the BJP complaint only marks its “desperation”, the former Karnataka minister and the son of Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge, wrote, “Caste is a reality of India. Only those coming from privileged backgrounds, like the BJP leaders who submitted a complaint against me, will never understand the inequality and discrimination meted out by BJP governments”.

He wrote that his comments were political — “in response to his (PM Modi’s) public speech as a BJP leader, exposing the empty nature of his soaring rhetoric”.

“My statements were neither (I) an attack on the personal life of the Prime Minister, (2) malicious or offending decency and morality since the literal translation of the words highlighted by the Hon’ble Commission is “not able”, nor were they (3) on a matter not connected with the Prime Minister’s public life.

The Model Code, he added, exists to “punish perpetrators of hateful and divisive speeches and not for exposing the lies and empty rhetoric”.

“The duty to oppose propaganda is also a protected part of the fundamental right to freedom of expression,” the letter read.

In this context, he then added: “The details of all of these cases of hate speech are with the Commission yet no action has been taken against the Union Home minister or the BJP National President or the UP Chief Minister or Mr Somanna as well as others. Given the constitutional mandate of equality before law, I hope that the Commission will initiate decisive action against them as well.”

Addressing a poll gathering in Karnataka last week, Priyank Kharge had quoted from a speech of the Prime Minister.

“When you (PM Modi) came to Gulbarga (Kalaburagi) what did you tell the people of Banjara community? ‘Do not be afraid. A son of the Banjaras is sitting in Delhi. But if an inept son is sitting in Delhi, how can you run the family?” he had said.

Furious, the BJP had approached the Commission, alleging a “smear campaign” against the Prime Minister.