Ahmedabad: Faced with severe criticism and allegations of influencing the Election Commission to delay the announcement of Gujarat Assembly election dates, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani accused Congress of having influenced EC during the date announcement in 2012.
He refuted the Congress' allegations that the poll panel has delayed the announcement of Gujarat Assembly election under the BJP government's "pressure".
"In 2012 (Assembly election), the Election Commission ensured at the behest of the Congress that the Model Code of Conduct was in force for a record time to prevent Modiji from working, because of which the state government could not take up development work," Rupani said at an election programme organised here by a news channel.
The poll panel had on Thursday announced that the Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh will be held in a single phase on November 9 and the results will be declared on December 18.
However, it stopped short of announcing the dates for Gujarat, which is supposed to go to polls at the same time. Chief Election Commissioner A K Joti said that the Gujarat elections will be held before December 18.
The Chief Minister denied the allegation that the BJP government was interfering with the Election Commission's decisions.
The Congress had on Friday attacked the BJP for "pressurizing" the EC to delay the announcement of Gujarat elections and alleged that "past practices, conventions and precedents" were being set aside to help the ruling party in the state.
The opposition party alleged that the "delay" in announcing Gujarat Assembly election schedule was to enable Prime Minister Narendra Modi to act as a "false Santa Claus" to offer sops and use "jumlas" (rhetoric) during his October 16 visit to his home state.
The model code of conduct would have come into immediate effect in Gujarat had the poll schedule been announced, it added.
Countering the Congress' allegations, Rupani said, "Congress was complaining that the BJP will advance election because of the UP result...we are not interfering in the process of the Election Commission...we are not delaying elections".
"It is my responsibility to work for the public till the last day. Until the EC declares dates of elections, we will keep working for the public. There is nothing wrong in it. It is our right to work until the dates are declared," the chief minister said.
He said the opposition should raise an objection only when there is an interference in the election process.
"It is the right of the EC to declare model code of conduct... (the opposition) wants government to stop working. This is against democratic values," Rupani said.
Asked whether his party has lost the support of the Patidar community, the chief minister asserted it remains with the BJP.
"There is no place for Patidars in Congress. The community remains with us, they know where their interest lies. We are withdrawing cases against Patidars not to make them happy, but to resolve the deadlock by sitting with them, hearing their problems," he said, and exuded confidence that Dalits will vote for the party.
Rupani said his government took strong action against the people involved in thrashing Dalits in Una.
He said his government takes incidents of atrocities on Dalits seriously and immediate action follows against perpetrators.
On 'cow vigilantes', Rupani said his government does not support those doing wrong in the name of protecting cows.
"We do not support people who are doing wrong in the name of cow protection. We will punish them. And along with this, we are also working for cow protection, and have made the harshest law of life sentence for cow slaughter," he said.
(With PTI inputs)