West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (File image)
West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee would sit on a dharna on April 13 to protest against the 24-hour campaign ban imposed on her by the Election Commission (EC).
Banerjee took to Twitter to announce her sit-in demonstration in Kolkata, which would begin from noon onwards. The dharna would be held at the Gandhi Murti located in the state capital.
"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.
Earlier, Banerjee's close aide and TMC MP Derek O'Brien called the EC as "extremely compromised" and described April 12 as a "black day in our democracy".
Banerjee and O'Brien lashed out at the polling body shortly after it issued an order banning the chief minister from campaigning in the state from 8 pm on April 12 to 8 pm on April 13.
The ban, said the EC, was in response to the "violation of Model Code of Conduct and Representation of People's Act" by Banerjee through her contentious appeal to Muslim voters and controversial remarks made against the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs).
Banerjee was issued a notice by the EC last week 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 forces, 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 protest democratically by gherao if and when somebody (including CAPF) created any obstruction in their right to vote".
Earlier, a separate notice was served to Mamata Banerjee for her statement issued 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".
Banerjee, while defending her remarks, said her statement was aimed at maintaining communal harmony.
"You (EC) can issue 10 showcause notices to me but my reply will be the same. I will always speak against any division in Hindu, Muslim votes. I will always stand against division of voters along religious lines," she had said on April 8.