NEW DELHI: The Election Commission on Monday barred West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee from campaigning for 24 hours for her remarks against central forces and a statement which had alleged religious overtones.
"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," the order said.
It said that the "commission also imposes a ban of 24 hours on Ms Mamata Banerjee from campaigning in any manner from 8 pm of April 12 till 8 pm of April 13".
Assembly elections in West Bengal began on March 27 and four of the eight phases of the polls have been completed.
The poll panel's order cited two separate notices to Banerjee on April 7 and April 8, and her subsequent replies.
On her speech which had alleged religious overtones, the Election Commission (EC) said that Banerjee has "selectively chosen" parts of her speech in her reply dated April 9 and "did not mention anything on the context of key parts of her speech".
In her reply to the notice, the Trinamool Congress leader had said that "I did not seek to influence the voters to cast their vote for her 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 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 chief minister had said.
The EC order reproduced the "key part" of her reported speech.
The text of Banerjee's speech quoted in the commission'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 is 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 voters who are women, to protest democratically by "gherao" if and when somebody, including the forces, 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 portion of her speech to drive home the point 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 said reproducing portions of her speech.