The Election Commission on Monday finally acted against hate speeches in the run up to the national election and barred Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath from campaigning for 72 hours and Mayawati, for 48 hours starting tomorrow morning.
The commission’s orders came hours after the Supreme Court told the panel that it could not drag its feet and had to act promptly against poll code violations. The court had given the poll panel time till tomorrow to report on the action taken against the two prominent politicians for their controversial speeches.
The commission, which has been criticised by political parties across the spectrum for either turning a blind eye to poll code violations or being too slow, issued the gag orders soon after.
In separate orders, the Election Commission also “condemned” the two speeches and “censured” the politicians.
In a speech at a rally in Saharanpur’s Deoband on April 7, Mayawati had appealed to Muslims to vote for the alliance and not divide their vote by supporting another political party.
Two days later, according to the Election Commission, Yogi Adityanath told a rally in Meerut about Mayawati’s speech and said: “If the Congress, SP and BSP have faith in ‘Ali’, we have faith in ‘Bajrang Bali’, the followers of Bajrang Bali will not tolerate them.”
“The Commission, under Article 324 of the Constitution of India and all other powers enabling in this behalf, bars him from holding any public meetings, public processions, public rallies, road shows and interviews, public utterances (electronic, print, social media) etc in connection with ongoing elections for 72 hours from 6 am on 16 April 2019,” the panel said.
This is the first time in the 2019 election campaign that the election Commission has invoked its powers under the Constitution. But there is a clear precedent from 2014 Lok Sabha elections when BJP’s Amit Shah and Samajwadi Party’s Azam Khan were barred from campaigning for the remaining duration of the election after they failed to stick to the model code of conduct.
Yogi Adityanath’s gag order is for a longer duration because this is his second code violation. The Election Commission noted that it had already advised the chief minister to be more careful about his public statements on 5 April after his controversial speech that allegedly politicised the army action.
The commission also observed that Yogi Adityanath, as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, had the added responsibility to not only uphold basic tenets including secularism but also to display the same in his public statements and meetings.