The Congress, on Tuesday, petitioned the Election Commission seeking immediate action against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his appeals to Karnataka voters "in violation" of the model code, and said it was "a litmus test" for the poll body's capacity and willingness to enforce laws.
In a lengthy complaint to the chief election commissioner, Congress general secretary in-charge of Karnataka Randeep Surjewala asked the commission whether it will remain a "mute and helpless spectator" or fulfil its constitutional duty and act against the prime minster.
"Do the laws apply to prime minister or not and if ECI has the capacity and willingness to enforce such mandate or remain a helpless bystander? Truly a litmus test for ECI," Surjewala asked in a tweet.
The Congress also raised objections to comments made by Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president J.P. Nadda and other senior BJP leaders.
"One thing is extremely clear...(they) consider themselves above the law and the Constitution and presume that the ECI is either intimidated by the high offices they hold or that the ECI is too weak to act against them or hold them accountable for blatant and repeated violations of the model code...as well as various other electoral laws," the party wrote to the poll panel.
The Congress raised objections to Prime Minister Modi's appeal to the voters of Karnataka after the campaign ended Monday evening and said it was "flagrant and defiant violations" of the model code of conduct. The polling will be held on Wednesday.
Making a strong pitch for the return of the BJP government in Karnataka a day before polling, Prime Minister Modi said the affection he received in the state over the last few days has been unparalleled and it has strengthened the resolve to make it number one across all sectors.
In its complaint, the Congress said, "...with all humility that this is a litmus test for this Hon'ble Election Commission of India to exercise its constitutional duty under Article 324 of the Constitution of India and hold those in power accountable. The alternative is clear. They will be no level-playing field and instead there will be 'free for all', with those in power never being held accountable either to the ECI or to the rule of law."
"An unwritten but accepted norm would be that the ECI's mandate extends only to opposition parties and not to the PM and his colleagues," it charged.
Sharing the complaint on social media, Surjewala said, "Our Complaint to ECI on flagrant and defiant violations by Prime Minister Modi urging them to take action or be historically remembered for inaction and diluting the authority of ECI forever."
The party said the prime minister issued two video messages to Karnataka voters since the campaign ended—one after 11 pm on Monday and another Tuesday.
"If Prime Minister flouts electoral laws and code of conduct for elections with impunity, brazenly and in utter disregard of ECI directives...if Prime Minister flouts the 'silence period'...if Prime Minister attempts to influence voters for electoral gains during the prohibited period, should the ECI remain a mute and helpless spectator or act on its constitutional duty...," Surjewala tweeted.
Forty-eight hours before the end of polling are considered the silence period.
The party demanded that the Election Commission initiate appropriate proceedings against Modi, Shah, Nadda, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the BJP.
"It may be mentioned that if convicted under Section 126 of the Representation of People Act, 1951, these leaders will stand disqualified from their respective membership in the Parliament as well as the legislative assembly," according to the Congress complaint.
"We hope the Commission treats this matter with the attention that it deserves and initiates immediate action to take the issue forward," the complaint sent to the CEC said.
In his appeals, Prime Minister Modi sought blessings of the people of Karnataka in the mission to make the state the number one in the country.
"Dream of every citizen of Karnataka is my dream. Your resolve is my resolve. When we come together and set our minds to a goal, no force in the world can stop us," he said on Twitter.
In an appeal to "brothers and sisters" of the state, he sought their blessings in the mission of making Karnataka the number one state in the country, Modi said.
"My appeal is for the bright future of Karnataka. It is for the bright future of your family, especially the younger generations," Modi said.