Opposition parties attack EC over Bengal move, rally behind Mamata

Opposition parties have come down heavily on the Election Commission. Photo: PTI file/representational

A day after the Election Commission curtailed campaigning in Bengal for the last and seventh round of the general election following violence during BJP president Amit Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has found support in BSP supremo Mayawati, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and the Congress.

“The Election Commission has banned campaigning in West Bengal from 10pm today [May 16] just because PM Modi has two rallies in the day. If they had to ban then why not from today morning? This is unfair and the EC is acting under pressure,” Mayawati said in Lucknow, adding that Mamata Banerjee is being targeted as part of conspiracy to divert attention from failures of Modi government at the Centre.

“This doesn’t suit the Prime Minister of the country,” the BSP leader said.

The Election Commission on May 15 said campaigning would end at 10 pm on Thursday (May 16) instead of 5 pm on Friday because of the clashes during which a statue of iconic reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was smashed.

Mamata Banerjee has accused the election body of an “undemocratic and biased decision” that benefited the ruling BJP because the campaign ban would start right after the Prime Minister was done with his rallies in Bengal.

Coming down heavily on the Election Commission, 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. EC’s order on W.Bengal negates the due process under Article 14 and 21 and abdicates its Constitutional duty under Article 324 to ensure level-playing field. This is an unpardonable betrayal of the Constitution,” he tweeted.

In another tweet he alleged that the Election Commission failed to act on his party’s complaints against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah.

“Over 11 complaints filed with EC against PM Modi and Amit Shah: No action. Violence by the BJP and intimidation by Amit Shah: No action. Now, permit Modiji’s rallies on 16th and ban all others. This is a shameful fall for a once independent Constitutional Body,” he said in another tweet.

“Election Commission’s order is a parting gift to PM Modi and BJP, in order to ensure that the two pre-announced election rallies of Shri Modi today are not hit by the EC’s order.

“Does the EC now take orders from the BJP headquarters rather than from the mandate of the Constitution?” he tweeted this morning.

Along with BSP and the Congress, Akhilesh Yadav, the head of the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, spoke out in support of Mamata Banerjee in the aftermath of the Election Commission’s unprecedented decision.

The Election Commission for the first time has used Article 324 of the Constitution. Article 324 gives it the powers of “superintendence, direction and control of elections” to restrict campaigning. So far, the rule has been used to cancel or postpone elections or punish candidates.

Mamata thanks opposition leaders

Meanwhile, Mamata Banerjee has thanked the leaders of opposition parties, who came out in her support as she protested against the Election Commission’s decision to cut short the poll campaign duration in the state.

“Thanks and gratitude to @Mayawati, @yadavakhilesh, @INCIndia, @ncbn and others for expressing solidarity and support to us and the people of #Bengal. EC’s biased actions under the directions of the #BJP are a direct attack on democracy. People will give a befitting reply,” she tweeted.

Earlier, India Today reported that Mamata Banerjee has asked 23 Opposition parties to protest in view of the EC’s action over Kolkata violence. Another report said as many as 20 opposition parties will come and stage protest against the Modi-led central government as well as the Election Commission. The parties will reportedly include Akhilesh Yadav led- Samajwadi party, Mayawati led- BSP, and Rahul Gandhi led-Congress. The same report said that N Chandrababu Naidu led-TDP, MK Stalin-led DMK, Farooq Abdullah led-NC, Sharad Pawar led-NCP can also be the part of the united opposition protesting against the EC in Bengal.

(With inputs from agencies)

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