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EC has come a long way in punishing netas for outrageous remarks; more bans handed out this year than in 2014

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has stepped up the ante in the ongoing Lok Sabha election 2019 and taken action against politicians indulging in communal speech or found violating the Model Code of Conduct with outrageous and disrespectful remarks.

The ECI put a stop on the election campaign of many politicians across party lines. And this General Election has been a rarity in the number of defaulters penalised by the commission.

Yogi Adityanath

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath was banned from campaigning for three days after being warned earlier about his campaign speeches. The commission said Adityanath had spoken about a “green virus” in a speech last week in reference to Muslim voters who he said were being wooed by opposition parties.

However, it was his remarks referencing 'Ali and Bajrangbali' that led to the commission taking action against him for inciting communal disharmony through his comments.

Mayawati

BSP supremo Mayawati was issued a notice for her speech in Deoband appealing to Muslims to not vote for a particular party. ECI found her prima facie violating the MCC and banned her from poll campaigning for 48 hours.

Maneka Gandhi

The BJP leader and contestant from Uttar Pradesh's Sultanpur, was reprimanded by ECI and barred from holding campaign for 48 hours for communal remarks. Maneka, in a viral video, was heard telling Muslims in a rally that they should vote for her else she wouldn't be inclined to help that out in the time of need.

Azam Khan

The Samajwadi Party (SP) leader was on Tuesday barred from campaigning for 48 hours for his provocative remarks against poll authorities in Uttar Pradesh and making communal statements.  This is the second time Khan has been served ECI's punishment. Earlier, he was barred from campaigning for 72 hours for his "khaki underwear" jibe at his BJP rival Jaya Prada in Uttar Pradesh's Azamgarh.

Navjot Singh Sidhu

In April, the ECI had banned Navjot Singh Sidhu from campaigning for 72 hours for controversial remarks made by him which were seen as a violation of the poll code. While addressing a poll rally in Bihar's Katihar, the Punjab leader had stoked controversy when he urged Muslim voters to vote en bloc to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Congress leader was again served a notice by ECI, on Wednesday, for his provocative remarks against Modi.

 EC has come a long way in punishing netas for outrageous remarks; more bans handed out this year than in 2014

Representational Image. News18

Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur

ECI barred the BJP candidate from Bhopal from campaigning for three days for violating the poll code by stirring up communal feelings. The decision came in light of her comments against slain IPS officer Hemant Karkare and on the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Pragya had said that it was due to Karkare's karma that he was killed by terrorists.

Jitubhai Vaghani 

Gujarat BJP president Jitubhai Vaghani was barred from campaigning for 72 hours for violating the MCC. Vaghani was found to have spoken in an inflammatory way and used 'objectionable words' while addressing party workers in Surat's Amroli in April.

Babubhai Rayka

Meanwhile, the Gujarat Congress unit president Babubhai Rayka was hauled up for use of “intemperate and abusive language transgressing the limits of decency" as he made derogatory statements during his election campaign in the state. He was handed a 72-hour ban.

Apart from these leaders, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Modi were also under the election watchdog's scrutiny for their respective remarks made during public meetings. However, Modi was later given a clean chit in both instances of alleged poll code violation. He was under the scanner for his reference to the armed forces in of his speeches in Maharashtra's Latur where he sought votes in the name of the sacrifice made by them during the Balakot air strikes.

Whereas Rahul was picked up for his statement citing Modi's apparent order to shoot down tribals. He had falsely attributed such a law to the prime minister and was asked to furnish his reply within 48 hours in regard to the same.

In 2014

However, during the Lok Sabha election in 2014, the Election Commission was more reluctant to penalise top leaders with a ban on their campaigns.

BJP chief Amit Shah was among the few prominent politicians handed over such a ban. And even in his case, it was lifted off after he assured the commission that he would ensure no disturbance is caused to the peace and tranquillity of the nation with his words. The commission thereafter allowed Shah to hold public meetings, public rallies and roadshows and take out public processions in Uttar Pradesh.

Shah was censured for his controversial remarks calling for revenge. He had said that the General Election was "an opportunity to seek revenge for the insult inflicted during the riots in Muzaffarnagar" in Uttar Pradesh in 2013.

The commission, however, later noted that Shah had pledged that he will in no manner give cause to be accused as having indulged in any act of commission or omission which has the effect of prejudicially affecting the public tranquillity and law and order. But while giving him a “second chance” the commission said it will “closely monitor Shah’s campaign by constant video tracking by concerned district election authorities".

A similar diktat was served to repeat offender Azam Khan as well for making provocative speeches.

However, the considerable rise in the number of bans handed out by the commission in 2019, though not anything to boast of, reflect the commission heightened agency and powers. The commission seems no more reluctant to dish out punishment after it was rapped on the knuckles by the Supreme Court in the presence of the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi for not taking any action against erring leaders and not following up on its own notices, served on any instance of MCC violation.

The poll body was quick to act against communal speeches after the top court pulled it up and gave it 24 hours to get things straight and in motion.

The commission had earlier told the apex court that it was “toothless” in the face of hate and described itself as a body with "circumscribed" powers. Gogoi had told it then: "ECI has woken up to its powers."

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Updated Date: May 02, 2019 17:51:01 IST