File image of West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee (Image: PTI)
The Election Commission on April 12 imposed a 24-hour ban on West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee from campaigning in the ongoing polls.
The action was taken by the polling body after Banerjee was found "violating the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) and Representation of the People Act " by appealing to the voters on communal lines and making contentious remarks against the central forces.
As per the order issued by the polling body, the ban will come into effect from 8 pm on April 12, and continue till 8 pm on April 13.
The Commission noted that Banerjee made "highly insinuating and provocative remarks laden with serious potential of breakdown of law and order and thereby adversely affecting the election process."
The first EC notice to Mamata Banerjee was issued for her statement on April 3 that appealed the Muslim community to not to divide their votes.
"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," she had said in Hooghly.
Banerjee's remarks were considered as an apparent attack on Indian Secular Front (ISF) chief Abbas Siddiqui, who is contesting in an alliance with the Left and Congress.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) delegation led by Union Minister for Minority Affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, had demanded the polling body to take the stringent action as she allegedly appealed a religious community to vote for the TMC in "unison".
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also, subsequently, targeted Banerjee claiming that her remarks were triggered by the fear of losing Muslim votes.
"Didi recently asked all Muslims to vote en bloc for her. It shows that the Muslim vote bank is slipping out of her hands. Had we said the same thing that all Hindus should unite, everybody would have criticised us. The EC would have sent us notices. We would have been censored," he said while addressing an election rally here," Modi said on April 6.
Banerjee was subsequently also issued a notice by the EC after a complaint was received against her for the "gherao" remarks against the central forces.
"I tell you ladies, a group of you go and restrain (gherao) them while another group will go to cast their votes. One group will restrain them and another group will go to cast their votes. Don't waste your vote," she had said in Cooch Behar on April 7.
In response to the EC on April 10, Banerjee claimed that she holds high respect for the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), and the "gherao" suggested by her was a democratic form of protest.
The chief minister claimed that she had asked voters, specifically women voters, to "to protest democratically by gherao if and when somebody (including CAPF) created any obstruction in their right to vote".