To protest against the Election Commission’s “unconstitutional decision” to ban her from campaigning, West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee staged a sit-in in Kolkata on April 13.
Banerjee, who is still confined to a wheelchair, arrived at Mayo Road at 11.40 am and has been seated next to the Mahatma Gandhi statue. However, the Chief Minister was staging the protest on her own and no other TMC leader or worker was seen by her side.
According to a senior Trinamool leader no party leaders were allowed at the protest site. However, the area where Mamata is protesting falls under army’s jurisdiction and the TMC had not received any no objective certificate from the army for the protest as yet.
Charging West Bengal Chief Minister with violating poll code of conduct by using “highly insinuating” and provocative remarks against central forces, the Election Commission on Monday (April 12) had imposed a 24-ban on her campaigning. The poll body has also banned BJP leader Rahul Sinha for 48 hours for his remark on the Cooch Behar killings.
The EC alleged that the Trinamool Congress’ supremo broke poll code with her remarks on Muslim votes and by allegedly asking voters to act against central security forces. The EC said such statements had “serious potential” to trigger a breakdown of law and order situation in the state.
The campaign ban on Mamata would last till 8 pm of Tuesday.
Banerjee has called the EC’s decision undemocratic and announced a sit-in on Tuesday to protest against it.
“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,” Banerjee tweeted.
The EC’s decision has drawn criticism from TMC, Congress and Left leaders alike.
“EC stands for extremely compromised,” tweeted TMC leader Derek O’Brien.
“We always had a doubt about the impartiality of the EC. But today it has shed whatever pretence it had. Now it is clear that EC is acting at the behest of Modi/Shah and under their direct order. Every institution of democracy is compromised today. What hope do we have?” senior party leader Yashwant Sinha said.
In the wake of the killing of five people in CISF firing in Cooch Behar on April 10, the fourth phase of the polls, the EC extended the ‘silent period’ from 48 hours t0 72 hours for the fifth phase. During this time, all political leaders are barred from entering the district.
Last week, the EC served Banerjee two notices in which she was asked to explain her speeches on March 28 and April 7, in which she allegedly accused central forces of threatening voters and in turn had asked people to gherao security personnel and attack them.
“I know under whose instruction they beat up people and how they beat up. It is your duty to save the families of the people. If any of our mothers and sisters suffer a single strike with the stick, attack them with ladles, spuds and knife. I am telling you. It is the right of women. And if any of our mothers and sisters are denied entry in the voting compartment all of you come and revolt,” she had said at a rally.
Addressing another rally in Cooch Behar, the EC said Banerjee had asked women to gherao the Central Armed Police Forces and cast their vote if the security personnel prevent them from going to the booth.