Taking serious note of breach of "ethical and dignified behaviour", the Election Commission on Friday revoked the "star campaigner" status of Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath for repeated violations of the model code during campaign for the bypolls in 28 assembly constituencies in the state.
In an order, the Commission said, "...for repeated violation of Model Code of Conduct and for completely disregarding the advisory issued to him, the Commission hereby revokes the status of leader of political party (Star Campaigner) of Kamal Nath, Ex-Chief Minister, Madhya Pradesh, with immediate effect for the current Bye-elections of Legislative Assembly of Madhya Pradesh."
It said no permission will be granted by authorities to Nath as a star campaigner.
"However, if any campaign is done by Kamal Nath from now onwards, the entire expenditure related to travel, stay and visit will be completely borne by the candidate in whose constituency he carries out campaigning," it said.
While the political party pays for the expenditure of a star campaigner, the candidate pays for the expenditure of other campaigners.
The EC said it has carefully considered the matter and has observed with "displeasure that Kamal Nath despite being a leader of a political party is repeatedly violating the provisions of Model Code of Conduct and breaching the ethical and dignified behaviour".
The Commission referred to his remarks against Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
He had used the words "mafia" and "milawat khor" against a political rival at a recent campaigning event.
Last week, the EC had asked Nath not to use words like "item" in campaigning.
He had used the jibe to hit out at state minister and BJP candidate Imarti Devi at a rally.
The Congress said it will move the Supreme Court against the Election Commission's decision.
Reacting to the development, Nath himself said the EC had not given him any notice or hearing.
Congress' Rajya Sabha member and senior lawyer Vivek Tankha told reporters that a petition will be filed in the apex court as soon as possible.
Nath said, "Which post or position this star campaigner has? The EC had not given me any notice, nor had it asked me about it. Why they are doing this in the last two days of campaigning, they only know."
Asked if he will move the Supreme Court, he said, "Vivek Tankha is handling it, he will take a call."
But the Congress leader defended his use of the word "item".
"I was in the Lok Sabha for so many years. There it is mentioned in the agenda sheet, item number 1, item number 2. That was in my mind. I have not said it to disrespect anyone," he said.
"Still I had said that if someone feels insulted, then I express regret," the former chief minister added.
Nath also claimed that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi did not express disapproval about him in particular after the episode but only said disrespectful language should not be used for women.
Asked about BJP leaders' demand that he apologise, Nath said, "It is not anyone's demand. In the end I do what I feel is right and proper, because it (disrespecting the woman minister) was not my intention."
This is not for the first time that the EC has taken such a stern action against political leaders.
In the last Delhi polls, the EC had removed Union minister Anurag Thakur and local MP Parvesh Verma as star campaigners.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath was barred from campaigning for 48 hours by the poll watchdog.
The District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police of Datia were removed by the EC based on a complaint of the Congress recently. Datia is one of the seats going for bypoll in Madhya Pradesh on November 3.
The Election Commission had recently ordered the Madhya Pradesh government to cancel the transfer order of 12 Joint/Deputy Collectors in poll-bound districts of the state with immediate effect.
In a statement, the Commission said that it has come to its notice that these transfer orders were issued during the period of the Model Code of Conduct being in force in the poll-bound districts. The Commission announced the poll schedule on September 29 and the MCC came into immediate effect.
Campaigning for the bypolls ends on November 1.