As polling continues in West Bengal, the Election Commission has banned Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee from campaigning for 24 hours, triggering protests and widespread condemnation. With the poll panel unsatisfied with Banerjee's response to two notices sent by it, the Trinamool Congress supremo has been barred from campaigning between 8 pm on Monday and 8 pm on Tuesday.
The Commission had sent notices to Banerjee for her remarks against central forces and a statement which had alleged religious overtones. In a five-page letter, the EC condemned her remarks and warned her against making such comments while the Model Code of Conduct was in force. The EC had served the notice on April 7 after the CM had appealed to citizens to not "divide the minority votes after listening to the devil person who had taken money from the BJP".
Banerjee however is not taking the curb quietly. Even as party leader cried foul and other Opposition leaders lent their support to the TMC chief, she announced her intention to hold a dharna.
"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 had announced soon after the EC ban. Visuals shared by news agency ANI on Tuesday afternoon show the politician seated on a wheelchair in the Gandhi Murti area.
The EC ban has also prompted a slew of outraged remarks online, with the hashtag 'BlackDayForDemocracy' trending on Twitter. Both TMC leaders as well as prominent members of other Opposition parties have spoken out against the situation.
"ECI has imposed a ban on Mamta didi for 24 hours. This is clearly done at the behest of BJP, ruling party in India. It is a direct attack on democracy and sovereignty of independent institutions of India. solidarity with Bengal Tigress, Mamata Banerjee," tweeted Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut.
"Today is a black day in Indian democracy. They can not beat us, that is why they ban us," tweeted TMC MP Derek O'Brien.
In other related news, the EC on Tuesday morning barred BJP leader Rahul Sinha from campaigning in any manner for next 48 hours commencing from 12 pm today till 12 pm on 15th April over his remarks on the violence in Cooch Behar's Sitalkuchi.