Indian poll panel imposes hours-long campaign ban on 4 senior party leaders

The Election Commission (EC) of India finally cracked the whip on some senior political leaders on Monday by barring them from campaigning for two to three days for violating the model code of conduct.

The commission banned Samajwadi Party’s Azam Khan from campaigning for 72 hours,

federal minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Maneka Gandhi for 48 hours, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and BJP leader Yogi Adityanath, above right, for 72 hours and Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati for 48 hours.

Opposition parties said similar action should be initiated against the prime minister and BJP leader Narendra Modi for allegedly seeking support from first-time voters in the name of India’s Air Force personnel who carried out airstrikes on terror camps in Pakistan’s Balakot.

The commission said Khan’s “khaki underpants’ jibe at rival candidate Jaya Prada was indecent, derogatory and uncalled for. Khan was banned from campaigning during the 2014 national elections too and he still uses objectionable language during campaigning, the poll panel said.

The EC was not convinced by Maneka’s reply on why she asked Muslim voters of Sultanpur constituency to back her. She had threatened not to help them if they do not vote for her.

Yogi Adityanath was pulled up for comparing the national elections to a contest between ‘Ali’, a revered figure in Islam, and Bajrang Bali, a Hindu god.

The commission observed that as chief minister of a state, Adityanath was expected to uphold the basic tenets of the Constitution and also to display them in his public appearances.

Instead, he made a highly provocative speech to create mutual hatred between religious communities.

Mayawati got the EC notice for asking Muslims to vote for her alliance and not for Congress.

The commission said that being a senior leader, Mayawati should have desisted from making such comments that could polarise the elections.

Mayawati alleged a hidden agenda behind the EC’s “unconstitutional and anti-democratic order” to ban her from campaigning for two days.

She warned the commission that she will hit back if the opposition alliance comes to power after votes are counted on May 23.

The hours-long ban on the four leaders comes into effect from 6 am on Tuesday (April 16).  They cannot hold public meeting, processions, rallies, road shows and interviews in media on the ongoing elections during the ban.