Why Allow PM’s Rallies?: Mamata, Yechury Slam EC’s WB Campaign Ban
Questioning the Election Commission's (EC) decision to end campaigning in West Bengal from 10 pm on Thursday, 16 May, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asked if the poll body had set the time to “allow PM Narendra Modi to address two rallies in the state in the afternoon.”
In a first in India's electoral history, the Election Commission on Wednesday, 15 May, ordered campaigning in nine West Bengal constituencies to end at 10 pm on Thursday, a day before its scheduled deadline, in the wake of violence between the BJP and TMC workers in Kolkata.
In a hurriedly-convened press conference, Deputy Election Commissioner Chandra Bhushan Kumar said it was the first time that such an action has been taken using constitutional powers of the poll panel.
Shortly after the EC announced its decision, people took to Twitter questioning the poll body’s “unprecedented” decision. While some argued that the EC took the decision in order to favour Modi, others opined that “an Election Commission worse than this one is an impossibility”.
‘EC’s Campaign Ban Doesn’t Affect Modi’
People angered by the decision questioned the timing of the ban announced by the Election Commission.
“Luckily, EC's campaign ban in West Bengal does not affect Modi”, wrote journalist Shoaib Daniyal, while Arvind Gunasekar said, “if the commission decided to stop the campaigning from tomorrow and not today, why not from 5 pm tomorrow (when the silence period starts)?”
CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury asked if the poll body had set the time to allow Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address two rallies in the state in the afternoon.
"If a ban is intended for 72 hours, why is it starting at 10 pm tomorrow? Is it to allow the two rallies of the PM before that?" Yechury tweeted shortly after the EC's announcement. He also pointed out that they had written many letters and complaints which had gone without response.
Congress leader Ahmed Patel slammed the poll body, calling it an unprecedented move to wait for the PM to complete his public meetings.
Author and political analyst Saba Naqvi questioned whether people were witnessing a new low reached by the Election Commission.
Meanwhile, CM Mamata Banerjee, during an interaction with the media on Wednesday, also accused the poll body of favouring the BJP and Prime Minister Modi.
“They are allowing campaigning on Thursday as Modi is supposed to hold two meetings tomorrow... No law and order problem in West Bengal. Clamping Article 324 is unprecedented, unconstitutional, unethical,” she said, as per PTI.
Meanwhile, the TMC supremo will hold two public meetings (jansabhas) in Mathurapur – right before PM Modi’s rally – and Diamond Harbour.
Then, later in the day, she will also lead two padyatras (marches) in Kolkata, ahead of the EC’s campaign ban in West Bengal – from 10 pm on Thursday.
‘Which Part of Article 324 Was Invoked To Ban the Campaign?’
Labelling the EC as “extraordinarily loyal” (apparently towards PM Modi), a Twitter user said "an Election Commission worse that this one is an impossibility”.
The poll body had invoked Article 324 of the Constitution to curtail the campaigning for the last phase of the election on 19 May. It grants wide plenary powers to the EC for “superintendence, direction and control” of the conduct of elections.
This allows the EC to pass any orders required to ensure free and fair elections, which technically covers law and order issues as well.
On the other hand, another user asked “which part of Article 324 that was invoked to ban the campaign?” and “what that ‘etc’ means”.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the use of Article 324 by the EC is an "unpardonable betrayal of the Constitution" as the poll body has failed to maintain a level-playing field.
"Today is a dark day in the history of democracy,” he tweeted, adding that the EC;s order negates the due process under Article 14 and 21.
He also alleged that the poll panel had failed to act on his party's complaints against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah.
BJP Practising Pseudo-Nationalism: Naidu
Condemning the “violence perpetrated by the BJP and its workers” in Kolkata, the leaders of the Opposition parties underlined the “need to stand united against the destructive tactics of Amit Shah-led BJP”.
“People of Bengal will give befitting reply to Modi-Shah led perpetrators of violence and hooliganism,” Aam Aadmi Party chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wrote in a tweet.
On the other hand, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu hit out at the ruling BJP for “practising pseudo-nationalism”.
He also questioned the EC, asking how they were taking prompt action now, after ignoring the TMC’s complaints.
‘Classical Case of Breakdown of Constitutional Machinery’
BJP leaders also took to Twitter and said that "A free campaign is not possible” and that “the West Bengal government and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee should own the responsibility of the prevailing situation in the state.”
‘EC Acting Under Pressure’
BSP supremo Mayawati, meanwhile, said that the EC was acting under pressure.
“Election Commission has banned campaigning in West Bengal, but from 10 pm today (Thursday) just because PM has two rallies in the day. If they had to ban then why not from today morning? This is unfair and EC is acting under pressure,” she said, as per ANI.
“It is clear that PM Modi, Amit Shah and their leaders are targeting Mamata... it’s planned targeting. This is a very dangerous and unjust trend and one which doesn't suit the PM of the country,” she added.