A day after the Election Commission (EC) cut short the campaigning in West Bengal, the opposition rallied behind Mamata Banerjee accusing the poll body of “acting under pressure”.
BSP supremo Mayawati said the Election Commission could have banned campaigning from Thursday morning but did not as PM Modi has two scheduled rallies in the day. Calling it unfair, she said the EC was acting under pressure.
“Election Commission has banned campaigning in West Bengal, but from 10 pm today just because PM has two rallies in the day. If they had to ban then why not from today morning? This is unfair and EC is acting under pressure,” Mayawati said.
Mayawati further said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah were targeting Mamata Banerjee in a “planned manner”.
“This is a very dangerous and unjust trend and one which does not suit the PM of the country,” she added.
The Congress on Wednesday also slammed the poll panel’s decision, terming it an “unpardonable betrayal of the Constitution”.
Party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the decision will allow Prime Minister Narendra Modi to campaign on Thursday while meetings of other leaders have been impacted.
He said it was “a shameful fall for a once independent Constitutional Body”.
“Today is a dark day in the history of democracy. EC’s order on West Bengal negates the due process under Art 14 & 21 and abdicates its Constitutional duty under Art 324 to ensure level playing field. This is an unpardonable betrayal of the Constitution!”
“Over 11 complaints filed with EC against PM Modi & Amit Shah – No action. Violence by BJP and intimidation by Amit Shah – No action. Now, permit Modiji’s rallies on 16th & ban all others This is a shameful fall for a once independent constitutional body,” Surjewala said in a series of tweets.
The order was aimed “solely at giving a free pass to the PM’s rallies,” said Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, questioning whether the MCC (Model Code of Conduct) had become “Modi Code of Misconduct”.
In an unprecedented move, the Election Commission on Wednesday invoked Article 324 and announced that no election campaigning would be held in nine parliamentary constituencies of West Bengal — Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata Dakshin and Kolkata Uttar –from 10 pm Thursday ahead of the May 19 polls.
Campaigning for the last phase of Lok Sabha elections was scheduled to end on Friday.
The decision comes in the wake of simmering tension between the BJP and the TMC following the violent clashes that broke out on Tuesday during BJP National President Amit Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata.
The ECI also removed West Bengal Principal Secretary (Home) Atri Bhattacharya and Additional Director General (CID) Rajeev Kumar with immediate effect after it received adverse reports and inputs from the state authorities.
Tearing into the poll body, the West Bengal chief minister said the poll body’s decision to curtail campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections in the state and remove two senior officers was one taken on the direction of the BJP, its president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Calling the decision “unethical, unconstitutional, undemocratic and biased”, Mamata Banerjee said, “Tomorrow, Modi has two meetings in Bengal. When he finishes, the campaigning also ends… Instead of punishing Amit Shah, the Election Commission has given a gift to the BJP”.
In Bengal, the Trinamool and the BJP are locked in an intense battle for 42 Lok Sabha seats.