Opposition parties on Thursday hit out at the Election Commission for alleged 'inaction' over the alleged poll code violation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Gujarat with the Congress accusing it of acting like a 'captive puppet' of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Leaders of the Congress and other opposition parties also alleged that the Election Commission failed to uphold its constitutional mandate.
At the heart of the row was the objections raised by the Congress to what it called a 'roadshow' by the prime minister when he greeted the crowd outside the polling booth in Ranip area in Ahmedabad after he cast his vote in the second phase of Gujarat assembly polls.
Modi, who came to Ahmedabad specially to vote, after alighting from his car, bowed to greet his elder brother Somabhai Modi, who lives in the Ranip area, where the polling booth was located.
After casting the vote at Nishan High School, he showed his inked finger to hundreds of supporters who had gathered outside the school in the Sabaramati constituency amid chants of 'Modi, Modi'.
Later, he stood on the foot-board of his car and waved to the crowd.
Nikunj Balar, convener of the Congress's legal cell, said the party lodged a complaint with the Election Commission and the chief electoral officer of Gujarat against Modi's 'roadshow'.
A separate complaint was also submitted to the Ranip police, he said.
In response to the complaint, Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat, B B Swain, said an inquiry has been ordered to probe whether there was any violation of the Model Code of Conduct.
The complaint was more 'anticipatory in nature', he said.
"We have received a complaint regarding MCC violation after casting of vote (by Modi). It was more anticipatory in nature. It said there was a huge crowd (outside the polling booth) and it could turn into a roadshow," Swain said.
"We have handed over the inquiry to the Ahmedabad district election officer (the district collector). Since our MCC team was also present at the booth, it will also give its report. They (the collector and MCC team) are now finalising their overall inquiry report," Swain said.
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party in a vigorous response to the Congress charge said it was looking for excuses before its 'impending defeat' in the polls for which the final phase of voting ended on Thursday.
A BJP delegation, which included cabinet ministers Nirmala Sitharaman, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi among others, met the Election Commission to refute the charges levelled by the Congress against the prime minister and other leaders.
Opposition leaders, including those from the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, National Conference and the Left parties, during a meeting on the eve of the winter session of Parliament referred to the alleged model code violation by the prime minister.
It was 'indeed shocking' that the Election Commission had failed to uphold its constitutional mandate, the leaders said in a statement released after their meeting in Delhi, accusing the poll body of inaction.
Instead of taking action for violations, the poll panel had allowed violations by the ruling party.
The Election Commission had been indulgent in allowing the prime minister to dedicate a submarine on the day of the poll, the statement read.
'This attitude of the EC has cast ominous shadow on the credibility of the EC and the integrity of the electoral process,' the leaders said.
In a no-holds-barred attack on Chief Election Commissioner A K Joti, the Congress alleged he was behaving like Modi's principal secretary and said the poll body had prostrated itself before the government.
Addressing a joint press conference in Delhi, Congress general secretary in charge of Gujarat Ashok Gehlot and communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala alleged that a 'desperate prime minister facing defeat in Gujarat' held a roadshow with BJP flags and flouted the Constitution and the poll code.
The EC was acting like a frontal organisation of the BJP and had abdicated its constitutional responsibility by not moving against Modi, they said.
"The Election Commission has become a captive puppet of Narendra Modi and the BJP. Unfortunately, the Chief Election Commissioner has abdicated his Constitutional responsibility," Surjewala said.
"It is a sad letter day for India. The Election Commission of India has denigrated the Constitution and abdicated its responsibility," he added.
Though the BJP delegation members did not speak to the media on record about their meeting with the Election Commission, sources said they accused the Congress of misleading the EC and called its attack unfortunate in a memorandum submitted to the poll watchdog.
BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao also launched a sharp attack on the Congress, saying its 'dynastic arrogance' was on display in its attack on the EC.
No FIR lodged against Rahul, only notice issued: EC
Meanwhile, the Election Commission said no first information report has been lodged against Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi for prima facie violating election law by giving interviews to TV channels which were aired hours before the second phase of Gujarat polling was to begin on Thursday morning.
Briefing media about the voter turnout in the second phase, Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha said, "No FIR has been lodged against Rahul Gandhi. Only a notice has been issued to which he has to respond in five days."
He has to respond by 5 pm on December 18.
The notice, issued on Wednesday, said the display of his interviews by TV channels fell within the definition of 'election matter' under Section 126 (3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and their telecast before the polling amounted to violation of Section 126 (1) (b) of the Act.
'...By giving such interview and its display on TV channels on December 13, you have, prima facie, violated the...provisions...of the Model Code of Conduct... Representation of the People Act, and the Election Commission's lawful instructions in this regard,' it said.
The BJP had complained to the poll panel about the interviews.
The EC, in a statement yesterday evening, had said that it has asked TV channels to 'forthwith stop' airing interviews of Gandhi as they violated the election law and directed the Gujarat poll authorities to lodge FIR against anyone for infringement of legal provisions.
'Submarine commissioning event not in model code ambit'
The poll panel also said that the commissioning of a submarine by the prime minister on Thursday does not fall under the ambit of the model code which is in force due to Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat elections.
Responding to a question by reporters on Congress' allegation that INS Kalavari's induction ceremony in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi would violate the model code, Sinha said the event does not come under the model code jurisdiction.
"On Thursday, Modi will be in Mumbai where he will attending a commissioning ceremony of Submarine Kalvari. Will that not be a violation of the MCC?" Congress leader Anand Sharma had asked on Wednesday.
Modi had on Thursday morning commissioned Scorpene-class submarine into the Navy.
Image: Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to the crowds after he cast a vote in the Gujarat polls. Photograph: Santosh Hirlekar/PTI Photo