NEW DELHI : The BJP and Congress clashed on Friday over the Election Commission not declaring the poll schedule for Gujarat, with the Left joining the Congress in criticising the poll body as well as the government. The Congress accused the Modi government of "grossest interference" in the working of the Election Commission, which the ruling BJP termed as "uncalled for" criticism.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told media persons here that the BJP was trying to convert the "Election Commission into Election Omission" and its "shameless tactics" were "a last-ditch effort to save itself from the thrashing in Gujarat in the forthcoming elections".
He said the decision was a "fundamental assault on the level-playing field concept".
"It is not a small matter. It cuts at the root of several constitutional fundamental principles. It is grossest interference in a shameless manner. It violates the basic structure of the Indian Constitution as holding free, fair elections is part of the basic structure," Singhvi said.
"It has denigrated the authority and power of the Election Commission. A drowning man is desperately clutching at a straw," he added.
The Election Commission on Thursday declared assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh but not for Gujarat even as the term of assemblies in both states ends in January. However, it said the elections in the state would be held by December 18.
Singhvi said the "BJP had forced this change" so as to enable Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce various sops "like a false Santa Claus" in Gujarat on October 16.
He said the development had also cast "a serious shadow of suspicion on the working of the Election Commission".
Singhvi said dates of the Gujarat polls should be announced immediately and the Model Code of Conduct be immediately enforced.
The CPI-M called the EC's reasoning to defer poll announcement in Gujarat as "strange".
"It is strange that the Election Commission has announced the date of election for Himachal Pradesh Assembly while withholding the announcement of date for Gujarat Assembly elections," the Communist Party of India-Marxist said.
Usually when elections are due within a period of six months, these states are combined and a joint announcement is made, it said. "This has been the practice followed so far."
"The Chief Election Commissioner has announced that the Gujarat polls will be held before the results of Himachal Pradesh elections are declared on December 18.
"This is even stranger if Gujarat Assembly elections are to be completed before December 18, then the Model Code of Conduct must be applicable to that state as well," the CPI-M said.
Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D. Raja said that it is natural that questions would be raised over the EC's decision.
"There are many questions raised in public domain as to why the EC did not announce schedule for Gujarat polls. There are many apprehensions, speculations appearing in public domain," Raja said.
However, the government and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have dismissed criticism of the EC.
Attacking the Congress for its criticism, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: "Let us fight properly in Gujarat if you have any issues. By miscellaneous ways the question is being raised on Election Commission, CAG and even Supreme Court. These uncalled for reflections upon constitutional bodies are without any basis."