New Delhi: BJP leader Arun Jaitley on Wednesday hit out at the Congress for criticising the Election Commission over the Gujarat elections announcement, saying the poll panel was not "supposed to be browbeaten by a disgruntled or losing" party.
The opposition party, he said, was singing the EC's praises when it gave a favourable verdict during recent Rajya Sabha polls as he backed the poll body's decision to not announce the Gujarat poll dates with that of Himachal Pradesh.
"If there is a gap of four to five weeks between elections in the two states, then it is fair that there be a similar gap between imposition of the Model Code of Conduct there," he told a press conference here.
The Congress has alleged that the EC acted under the government's pressure, allowing BJP governments at the Centre and in Gujarat to make many announcements in their bid to influence public opinion in their favour.
The BJP has argued that the Gujarat polls were always held after Himachal polls and, therefore, it was right in announcing their dates later.
"That the model code is in effect for 35 days in a Congress-ruled state (Himachal) and 70 days in a BJP-ruled state just because the Congress feels so, is not binding on the EC," Jaitley said.
"The EC is duty-bound as per the law... It would be wholly against the spirit of democracy if the Model Code of Conduct is extended to 70-80-90 days," he said.
Jaitley recalled that it was during the previous National Democratic Alliance government that it was agreed that the model code would be binding on governments. It was also decided that the code would be in force only for a few weeks at the time of the election, he said.
The government is not allowed to make any major announcement when the code is in force.
Jaitley, who is also the BJP's in-charge for the Gujarat polls, described Patidar leader Hardik Patel and other activists, who have come out against the saffron party, as "Congressmen in disguise".
Referring to reports that Patel had a meeting with Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi at an Ahmedabad hotel recently, he said his party was not interested in whether they met or not. "It is only scandals that take place in the midst of darkness," he quipped.