The Election Commission of India (ECI) has banned incumbent Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee from campaigning in the state for 24 hours over speeches which allegedly violated the poll code of conduct.
Banerjee was accused of breaking the law with her comments on Muslim votes and for allegedly urging voters to revolt against central security forces.
Banerjee 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 tomorrow 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.
66-year-old politician 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.
In Cooch Behar, she made “highly objectionable remarks” on the Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF), said the election body.