Hours after the Supreme Court directed the Election Commission of India to depute a senior officer to the court on Tuesday to explain the Commission’s ‘helplessness’ in taking action against violations of the Model Code of Conduct, the EC banned Yogi Adityanath and Mayawati from campaigning for 72 hours and 48 hours respectively.
But there was studied silence on complaints against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for similar violations.
Adityanath on April 9 had described the IUML, a UDF constituent in Kerala, as a “green virus” and suggested that Hindu and Muslim voters were in an “Ali-Bajrang Bali” contest. Mayawati, who had earlier appealed to Muslims at Deoband against voting for the Congress, had on April 13 retorted that both ‘Ali and Bajrang Bali’ were supporting the SP-BSP alliance.
With Tuesday being the last day of campaigning for the second phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh, the ban is unlikely to make much of a difference to their campaigns though. It remains to be seen if the restriction works as a deterrent when they return to campaigning on April 19 after the second phase of polling gets over on April 18.
Yogi Adityanath had earlier been cautioned by the Commission which had censured his description of Indian armed forces as ‘ Modi’s Sena’ and was asked to be careful.
The question being asked is why the Election Commission has been lenient to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Are there separate rules or code for the PM?
The PM has been shown live on TV saying, “ Congress insulted Hindus. People have decided to punish it in the election. Leaders of that party are now scared of contesting from constituencies dominated by the majority (Hindu) population. That is why they are forced to take refuge in places where the majority is in a minority,” at an election rally in Wardha in Maharashtra.
The PM has also been seeking votes by invoking the victims of the suicide bombing at Pulwama and by referring to the Indian Armed Forces and the air strike at Balakot.
Significantly, the Election Commission pleaded helplessness in the Supreme Court in taking action against violators of the Model Code of Conduct. "The power of the ECI in this behalf is very limited...we can issue notice and seek reply but we can't de-recognise a party or disqualify a candidate...Mayavati was required to file her explanation by April 12 but it was not done...we can only issue advisories and in case of a repeat offence, register a complaint...", the court was informed by the ECI, reported Live Law.
When the court asked Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for the petitioner, if the ECI indeed could do only so much in the face of communal pleas for votes, he asserted that the powers of the Commission under Article 324 were quite extensive.
Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora also maintained in an interview to NDTV that the Commission had already censured a Governor and a serving chief minister for code violations and would not hesitate to take action if the violations are repeated.
One of the options before the Commission is to debar the politician from campaigning for two, three or ten days, the CEC declared.
So, will the Prime Minister be debarred from campaigning?