New Delhi: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was banned from campaigning for 24 hours over speeches that the Election Commission said violated the poll code. The Chief Minister was accused of breaking the law with her comments on Muslim votes and for allegedly urging voters to revolt against central security forces. Mamata announced a sit-in protest against the ban. "To protest against the undemocratic and unconstitutional decision of the Election Commission of India, I will sit on dharna on Tuesday at Gandhi Murti, Kolkata from 12 noon," she tweeted.
The ban till 8 pm on Tuesday - outgoing Election Commissioner Sunil Arora's final order - comes half-way through the Bengal election, with four more rounds of voting left in an intense campaign pitting Mamata Banerjee against a galaxy of BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mamata had been served two notices last week by the Election Commission, which said her replies to them betrayed "selective amnesia". She was asked to explain her speeches on March 28 and April 7, allegedly accusing central forces of intimidating voters and urging women to hit back or surround the security personnel. "Who gave so much power to them that the central police are threatening the women without allowing them to cast their votes? I saw the same thing in 2019, I saw the same thing in 2016," she said during the March rally.
"I know under whose instruction they beat up people and how they beat up. It is your duty to save the families of the people. If any of our mothers and sisters suffer a single strike with the stick, attack them with ladles, spuds and knife. I am telling you. It is the right of women. And if any of our mothers and sisters are denied entry in the voting compartment all of you come out and revolt," she allegedly said.
The Election Commission called these "false, provocative and intemperate statements" that "vilified" central forces and had caused "extreme demoralisation" in their ranks. In another notice, the Chief Minister was accused of "openly demanding votes on communal grounds".
Her response to both the notices were defiant. Mamata's Trinamool Congress blasted the Election Commission, dubbing it "Extremely Compromised" - not for the first time. Mamata has had a running feud with the Election Commission in these polls. She was earlier warned over a "factually incorrect" complaint over voting in Nandigram, where she faces her aide-turned-BJP rival Suvendu Adhikari.