Kolkata: In what seems to be major relief to the BJP, the Election Commission on Monday slapped a 24-hour campaign ban on West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, following its dissatisfaction with her explanation on the recent notices over the model code of conduct violations on her two controversial remarks, from 8 pm on Monday, ahead of the fifth phase of the Assembly election in the state on Saturday.
An angry Trinamul Congress supremo, saying the EC’s decision was “undemocratic and unconstitutional”, has also threatened to sit on a dharna in protest in Kolkata from 12 noon on Tuesday.
On her appeal to Muslims for votes, the EC said in a statement Monday evening that Ms Banerjee “has selectively chosen parts of her speech in her reply” and “did not mention anything on the context of key parts of her speech”.
On the TMC chief’s call to voters to gherao Central paramilitary forces during the polls, the EC observed that Ms Banerjee “in her reply has yet again conveniently left out key parts of her speech, perhaps due to selective amnesia…” It concluded that it “carefully considered the matter and is of the considered view” that Ms Banerjee “made highly insinuating and provocative remarks laden with serious potential of breakdown of law & order and thereby adversely affecting the election process”.
The EC stated that it “condemns such statements portent with serious law & order problems across the state(s) and sternly warns Ms Mamata Banerjee and advises her to desist from using such statements while making public utterances during the period when the model code of conduct is in force. The commission also imposes a ban of 24 hours on Ms Mamata Banerjee from campaigning in any manner from 8 pm of 12.4.2021 till 8 pm of 13.4.2021.”
Later, the two-time CM tweeted: “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.”
The poll panel’s move came hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that the BJP had “scored a century” by winning seats in the first four phases of the ongoing Assembly polls. He alleged that the saffron party’s lead had left Ms Banerjee in despair as she had thought to hand over her captaincy of her rule on the state to her MP nephew Abhishek Banerjee if she would have won again.
“I am taken aback to see where she gets so much bitterness. The anger, bitterness, and frustration of Didi have been increasing. This is because the people have cleaned the TMC in the last four phases. The people of Bengal have hit so many fours and sixes in these phases that the BJP has already scored a century,” he said in Burdwan.
The PM added: “Those who wanted to play ‘khela’ with you, the people have now played ‘khela’ with them. Didi has been clean bowled by the people of Nandigram and Bengal. The people of Bengal foiled the plan of Didi. She was preparing to hand over the captaincy of the party to Bhaipo (nephew), but the public caught her ‘khela’ in time.”
Coming down heavily on Ms Banerjee over her stand against the Central paramilitary forces’ firing which took four lives at Shitalkuchi in Cooch Behar, Mr Modi, who addressed two more rallies during the day, also pointed out her silence on the killing of a policeman from Bihar during a raid to catch an accused of a crime in North Bengal.
He also tried to woo Matuas by showering lavish praise on the pioneers of their community, Harichand Thakur and Guruchand Thakur. The PM recalled how blessed he was in visiting the native place of the Matuas in Orakandi of Bangladesh, though Ms Banerjee was unhappy about it.
At Kalyani in Nadia, Mr Modi said: “Didi did not like my visit to Orakandi, where the founder of the Matua sect and social reformer Harichand Thakur was born. She questioned my visit. I assure you today that all the refugees will get all facilities due to them, they will get justice. It also an emotional commitment for the BJP to provide justice to all the migrants -- Matua and Namasudras.”
The PM also attacked Ms Banerjee over TMC candidate Sujata Mondal Khan’s controversial remarks about “beggars”, in relation to Scheduled Castes. Union home minister Amit Shah, who campaigned in the state all through Monday too, also tore into Ms Banerjee.