Just as the Lok Sabha elections are underway, political leaders are making statements violating the Model Code of Conduct, against which the Election Commission went full throttle on Monday. The poll panel first barred BSP chief Mayawati and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath from campaigning in the Lok Sabha elections for 48 and 72 hours respectively. However, the Election Commission's ire didn't stop here. Later in the day, it barred Union Minister Maneka Gandhi and Samajwadi party leader Azam Khan from campaigning in the Lok Sabha elections for 48 hours and 72 hours respectively.
While the action against Mayawati came for violating the Model Code of Conduct when she asked Muslims at a rally in Saharanpur to vote in favour of the SP-BSP-RLD combine, Adityanath was barred over his "green virus" and "Ali and Bajrang Bali" comments.
"The Commission, under Article 324 of the Constitution and other powers enabling in this behalf, bars him from holding any public meetings, public processions, public rallies, road shows and interviews, public utterances in media (electronic, print, social media) in connection with ongoing elections for 72 hours from 6 a.m. on April 16 (Tuesday)," the Election Commission order on Adityanath said.
In a separate order, the poll panel censured Mayawati and "strongly condemned the impugned statements made by her".
It said she would also be barred from holding any public meetings, processions, rallies, road shows and interviews, public utterance in media related to elections for 48 hours.
The Commission said that it was convinced that both leaders had made "highly provocative" speeches which had the tone and tenor to "aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred between different religious communities". It added that the two leaders had also violated provisions of the model code by making appeals to secure votes on religious lines.
The poll panel said that being senior leaders, Adityanath and Mayawati should have desisted from making statements that have the undertone and propensity to polarise the elections, which is not confined to the constituency only where the statement is made, but to the other parts as well, due to fast dissemination of information in the digital age.
"The Commission observes that being the Chief Minister of a state, Yogi Adityanath has an added responsibility to not only uphold the basic tenets, including secularism, of the Constitution of India but also to display the same in his appearances/meetings/speeches as well," it added.
The Election Commission had on April 11 issued notices to both Mayawati and Adityanath for violating the model code of conduct.
While the BSP leader had urged the Muslim community to vote only for SP-BSP-RLD alliance candidates, the Chief Minister had said that if the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party had faith in Ali, "we have faith in 'Bajrangbali'".
The poll panel had also asked Adityanath to explain his comment calling the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) a "virus" and saying that the Congress was infected with this "green virus".
While Maneka Gandhi was barred for asking Muslims in Pilibhit, her constituency, to vote for her if they wanted jobs, Khan was banned for making objectionable remarks against actor-turned-politician Jaya Prada, his BJP opponent in Rampur.
Khan reportedly told a rally in Rampur on Sunday: "It took you 17 years to identify the real face of these people, but I got to know it in 17 days that they wear khaki underwear."
The EC reprimanded Khan saying his "indecent", "derogatory and totally uncalled for" statement violated the model code of conduct and banned him from holding any public meetings, processions, rallies, road shows and interviews or public utterances in media in connection with the ongoing elections for 72 hours from 6 a.m. on Tuesday.
In a separate order, it also barred Gandhi from holding any public meetings, processions, rallies, road shows and interviews, public utterance in media related to the elections for 48 hours.
The poll panel's angst comes on a day when the Supreme Court expressed displeasure at Election Commission of India's statement suggesting its powerlessness in acting against political leaders who violate Model Code of Conduct.
“That’s it? You (Election Commission) know your power? For violating model code of conduct, all you can do is issue advisory?" asked Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi to EC’s counsel on Monday.
The bench headed by CJI Gogoi included justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna. The bench pulled up the EC for not acting against UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati after their inflammatory statements with religious overtones.