The Election Commission on Monday banned Punjab minister and Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu from campaigning for 72 hours for his appeal to Muslims in a constituency in Bihar to vote unitedly against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the elections. The ban will come into force at 10 am on Tuesday.

At the rally in Katihar on April 16, the Punjab minister had claimed that the BJP is trying to divide the Muslims. “You are in a 64% majority here,” he told the audience. “I have come to warn you, that these people [BJP] are trying to divide you. By bringing in a person like [All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin] Owaisi here, by introducing a new party here, they want to win the polls. If you get united – the minority is in a majority here – and vote together, Modi will be defeated. You will hit a six. Hit such a sixer that Modi lands outside the boundary.”

The AIMIM had fielded a candidate in Kishanganj constituency of Bihar.

The BJP had filed a First Information Report against Sidhu at Barasoi police station of Katihar district for violating the Model Code of Conduct.

The Election Commission said it has seen the video of the speech in question and is convinced that he has made an objectionable speech which has “the tone and tenor to aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred between different religious communities”. Sidhu has, thus, violated the Model Code of Conduct, the poll body said.

The Commission further said Sidhu should have desisted himself from making such statements which not only are confined to the constituency that they were made in, but to the other parts as well.

“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 in media [electronic, print, social media] etc in connection with ongoing elections for 72 hours from 10 am on 23rd April, 2019,” it added.