Assembly elections in West Bengal began on March 27 and four of the eight phases of the polls have been completed.
The Election Commission on Monday banned West Bengal Chief Minister and All-India Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee from campaigning for 24 hours till 8 pm on Tuesday after finding her allegation against Central forces and appeal to minority voters not to let their votes get divided to be violations of the Model Code of Conduct.
The EC had issued notices to Ms. Banerjee on April 7 and April 8 for making statements during the ongoing Assembly elections campaign that violated the MCC. In its April 7 notice, the EC cited Ms. Banerjee as asking minority voters not to divide their votes after being swayed by “the devil (shaitaan) person” who had taken money from the BJP. The EC said Ms. Banerjee had replied to the notice by saying that she had not sought to influence voters on religious lines and had spoken in favour of religious harmony. The EC, however, said Ms. Banerjee had “selectively chosen parts of her speech” in her reply to the notice.
In its April 8 notice, the EC cited a speech by Ms. Banerjee in Cooch Behar on April 7 asking women to “gherao” Central Armed Police Force personnel if they “create disturbances”.
In her reply to the notice, the Chief Minister said she called called on voters to democratically protest when anyone, including CAPFs, tried to obstruct their right to vote.
“Gherao is one of the democratic ways of registering public protest and accepted and there is no reason why gherao should be considered as illegal…I have only emphasised that voters should exercise their franchise in a free and fair manner and that intimidation of the electorate, by any external force whatsoever (including CAPF), will not be tolerated,” she said in her reply.
However, the EC again said Ms. Banerjee had left out “key parts of her speech, perhaps due to selective amnesia”.
In its order on Monday, the EC said Ms. Banerjee had raised allegations against CAPFs in her reply as well. The EC said it had considered the matter carefully and was of the view that Ms. Banerjee had violated provisions of the MCC, the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the Indian Penal Code by making “highly insinuating and provocative remarks laden with serious potential of breakdown of law & order and thereby adversely affecting the election process”.
Condemning the statements, the EC warned the Chief Minister to stop using such statements in public while the MCC is in force and banned her from campaigning for 24 hours from 8pm on Monday. The EC’s ban comes in the middle of polling in the eight-phase West Bengal elections, with phase five on April 17.
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