Bengal polls: EC bars Mamata Banerjee from campaigning for 24 hrs; will sit on dharna tomorrow, vows CM

FP Staff
·7 min read

The Election Commission on Monday barred West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee from campaigning for 24 hours as penalty for her remarks against Central security forces and for "appealing to voters in the name of religion", according to several media reports.

The ban will end at 8 pm on Tuesday.

Responding to the EC, Banerjee said she will stage a protest in Kolkata from noon on Tuesday.

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On Monday, the EC's order said, "Commission hereby condemns such statements potent with serious law and order problems across the state (s) and sternly warns Mamata Banerjee and advises her to desist from using such statements while making public utterances during the period when Model Code of Conduct is in force."

It added that the "Commission also imposes a ban of 24 hours on Ms Mamata Banerjee from campaigning in any manner from 8.00 pm of 12 April till 8.00 pm of 13 April".

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The EC said Banerjee's statements are in violation of Sections 123 (3), 3 (A) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and (2), (3), and (4) clauses of the General Conduct of Model Code of Conduct, Livemint reported.

On 8 April, the poll panel had issued a notice over Banerjee's 3 April speech at Hooghly, when she had allegedly "appealed to minorities not to split their votes among different political parties", The Times of India reported.

The poll panel's order on Monday cited two separate notices to Banerjee on 7 April and 8 April, and her subsequent replies.

On her speech which had alleged religious overtones, the EC said that Banerjee has "selectively chosen" parts of her speech in her reply dated 9 April and "did not mention anything on the context of key parts of her speech".

In her reply to the notice, the Trinamool Congress chief had said, "I did not seek to influence the voters to cast their vote on religious segmentary lines; rather I categorically spoke in favour of religious harmony in line with the spirit of Model Code of Conduct and the Constitution of India".

"By using the words 'I also will tell my Hindu brothers and sisters not to make division amongst yourselves as Hindu and Muslim', it is evident that my speech was not to incite religious sentiments but to maintain peace and harmony."

The EC order reproduced the "key part" of her reported speech.

The text of Banerjee's speech quoted in the EC's order read: "I am requesting my minority brothers and sisters with folded hands, don't divide the minority votes after listening to the devil (shaitaan) person who had taken money from the BJP. He passes many communal statements and initiates clashes between the Hindu and the Muslims..."

"The comrades of CPM and BJP are roaming around with the money given by BJP to divide the minority votes. Please don't allow them to do so. Keep in mind that if the BJP comes to the government then you will be in severe danger", read text of her speech quoted in the EC order.

On her reported remarks against Central armed police forces, Banerjee told the poll panel that she had only called upon the voters, specifically women voters, to protest democratically by "gheraoing" if and when somebody, including security personnel, created any obstruction in 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. Be it noted that the multi-dimensional word ''gherao'' has been a legitimate entry in the in the political lexicon of West Bengal since the late 1960s, and in recent years, more frequently than not, the word has been used to connote peaceful satyagraha against authorities by silent victims of a situation," she said.

The order said in her reply, on remarks against central forces, Banerjee has "yet again conveniently left out key parts of her speech, perhaps due to selective amnesia".

The order reproduced a portion of her speech to emphasise that she had violated the model code, provisions of the Representation of the People Act and the Indian Penal Code.

"l know under whose instruction they beat up and how they beat up. It is your duty to save the family of the people. If any of our mothers and sisters suffers a single stroke with the stick attack them with ladle, spuds and knife. I am telling you. It is the right of women. And if anyone of our mothers and sisters is denied entry in the voting compartment all of you come out and revolt," the order quoted her speech as saying.

Banerjee and the EC were at loggerheads this week over the deaths of four voters in firing by Central security forces. On Saturday, while the fourth phase of the Assembly polls was underway in the state, CISF personnel shot dead four voters in the Cooch Behar district allegedly after the locals attempted to "snatch their weapons".

Taking note of the incident, Banerjee slammed the poll panel for restricting the entry of politicians into the district for 72 hours on Sunday.

Describing the incident as "murder of democracy", Banerjee pointed out that the EC has stopped her and other politicians from visiting Sitalkuchi for 72 hours at the "behest of the BJP".

"You can stop me from visit Sitalkuchi or for that matter any other place, but I will find a way out to be on the side of the distressed people." She asserted that "for every bullet, reply will be given in votes".

'EC stands for extremely compromised': TMC

In a series of tweets, TMC MP Derek O'Brien slammed the EC for the ban and accused the poll panel of being "extremely compromised".

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Echoing him, another party leader, Kunal Ghosh, said the decision to ban Banerjee from campaigning for 24 hours is "atrocious and smacks of authoritarianism".

"The EC is behaving like a wing of the BJP. The ban is atrocious and smacks of authoritarianism. The sole aim of the EC is to stop Banerjee from campaigning as the BJP has already sensed defeat. This shameful," he stated.

Other TMC leaders also criticised the penalty and said that Banerjee's "voice cannot be stopped with a ban".

Party leader Kakoli Dastidar said, "The BJP has lost in four rounds. Mamata Banerjee's voice cannot be stopped with a ban. His voice is the voice of ten crore people of Bengal."

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Congress leader Abhijit Mukherjee also tweeted against the EC order:

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With inputs from PTI

Also See: EC issues notice to Mamata Banerjee over ‘Muslim vote split’ remark, asks CM to respond within 48 hrs

West Bengal Assembly polls 2021: EC removes police officer in Mamata Banerjee's security team over Nandigram incident

Bengal BJP worker's mother, beaten by 'TMC workers' in February, dies; wounds will haunt Mamata, warns Amit Shah

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