West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee
PTI file photo

Kolkata: It was outgoing Election Commissioner Sunil Arora’s parting shot. Half-way through the election, the EC has clamped a 24-hour campaign ban on West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee for inciting voters to gherao the central forces during polling and seeking votes on communal lines.

The ban will be effective from 8 PM Monday till 8 pm on Tuesday – it has come half-way through the Bengal election, with four more rounds of voting left in an intense campaign that has pitted Mamata Banerjee against none other than PM Narendra Modi.

In its order, the EC noted that Mamata Banerjee made "highly insinuating and provocative remarks laden with serious potential of breakdown of law and order and thereby adversely affecting the election process".

Banerjee's Trinamool Congress blasted the Election Commission, dubbing it "Extremely Compromised" - not for the first time. Mamata seized the adversity, hoping to turn it into political advantage. ‘‘To protest against the undemocratic and unconstitutional decision of the Election Commission of India, I will sit on dharna on Tuesday at Gandhi Murti, Kolkata, from 12 noon,” Mamata said in a tweet.

The EC has taken cognizance of a speech delivered in Cooch Behar on April 7, wherein Mamata had said: "If CAPF create disturbances, I tell you ladies, a group of you go and restrain [gherao] them while another group will go and cast their votes. Don't waste your vote. If you engage yourself only in restraining them they will be happy that you did not cast your vote. This is their plan. It is the plan of the BJP."

"And your plan will be that you will not be scared. If they intimidate you by coming to your village, you just talk to them. Talking to them will be tantamount to restraining them. You don't have to gherao them literally," she had explained.

In her response to the EC notice, Mamata denied the charge that she had incited voters against the central forces. "In my speech, I had only called upon the voters, specifically voters who are women, to protest if somebody created any obstruction in their right to vote. Gherao is one of the democratic ways of registering public protest and there is no reason why gherao should be illegal," Mamata Banerjee said.

In an earlier notice, the poll body had asked Mamata to explain her stand on alleged appeal for votes on communal lines during a rally in Hooghly.

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