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For offensive poll speeches, EC temporarily gags Yogi, Azam Khan, Maneka, Mayawati

The day Supreme Court rapped the Election Commission for not taking stern action against leaders who were violating the Model Code of Conduct, the Commission barred Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Azam Khan from campaigning for next three days, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Maneka Gandhi from campaigning for next two days starting from Tuesday. The commission invoked special powers under Article 324 of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court had questioned the Election Commission on what action it could take against leaders in case of violation of the Model Code. According to the commission, all the leaders had violated the MCC.

Both Yogi Adityanath and Mayawati were alleged to have made communal remarks before elections. The Supreme Court had pulled up the commission for failing to take action in cases of Model Code violation and questioning if it was even aware of its powers to force errant political leaders to fall in line.

At a recent meeting in Deoband, Mayawati had warned the Muslim community not to “split votes” between the Congress and her alliance. Appealing to caste or communal feelings to secure votes is a no-no under the model code, which is a series of dos and don’ts for political parties ahead of elections.

Days later, hitting out at Mayawati, Yogi Adityanath had said, “If the Congress, the SP and the BSP have faith in Ali, then we too have faith in Bajrang Bali” – a comment that triggered outraged protests from the Opposition. While Ali is revered by Muslims as Prophet Mohammad’s successor, Bajrang Bali is another name for Lord Hanuman.

For the first time a pan-India ban has been imposed on politicians, while any restriction on a chief minister and a union minister is unprecedented. While there was no immediate reaction from Adityanath, Mayawati alleged the order has been passed under pressure and it would be remembered as a black day in the EC’s history. She has faced action for appealing to Muslims to not vote for the Congress to avoid their anti-BJP votes getting divided. Her alliance partner and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav asked the EC whether it is capable to issue similar directives to the prime minister to stop him from asking for votes in name of the Army.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks asking first-time voters to dedicate their vote to those who carried out the Balakot air strike are under examination of the poll panel.

The poll authorities in Maharashtra’s Latur, where he made the speech, have told EC that prima facie the comments are violative of its orders asking parties against using the armed forces in their campaigns.

The EC order to bar Adityanath and Mayawati came soon after the Supreme Court asking the poll watchdog about the action it has initiated against them.

However, a senior EC functionary said the commission had examined the two issues on April 14-15, and came up with the final decision after lots of deliberation as it felt a clear message needed to go out to the politicians. The EC said it strongly condemns the impugned statement made by the UP chief minister and censured him for misconduct.

With PTI inputs


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