The Election Commission on Wednesday issued a notice to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for appealing to Muslims to vote against the Bharatiya Janata Party at a rally in Hooghly district on April 3, reported the Hindustan Times.
The notice was issued for “openly demanding votes on communal grounds”, according to NDTV. The poll panel said that Banerjee has violated the Model Code of Conduct with her remarks.
The Election Commission has asked the chief minister to explain her remarks within 48 hours, failing which it will take a decision. The notice was issued on a complaint filed by a BJP delegation led by Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
The poll panel highlighted the remarks by Banerjee made at a rally in Tarakeshwar in Hooghly district. “I am requesting my minority brothers and sisters with folded hands; don’t divide the minority votes after listening to the devil person who had taken money from the BJP,” she had said. “He passes many communal statements and initiate clashes between the Hindu and the Muslims. He is one of the apostles of the BJP, a BJP comrade. The comrades of CPM [Communist Party of India (Marxist)] and BJP is roaming around with the money given by BJP to divide the minority votes.”
Elections in West Bengal are being held in eight phases. The first phase was held on March 27 and the second on April 1. The third phase of polling took place on Tuesday. The results will be announced on May 2.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi targeted Banerjee for her comments. “Dear Didi, recently you said all Muslims should unite, and not allow their votes to be divided,” Modi said at an election rally in Cooch Behar. “You are saying this means that you are convinced that the Muslim vote bank has also gone out of your hands, the Muslims have also turned away from you... That you had to say so publicly – this shows that you have lost the election.”
The poll panel and Banerjee have sparred several times during the election campaign. Banerjee had also alleged that BJP tried to manipulate the election by capturing a booth in Nandigram during the second phase of voting. The poll panel has refuted the allegations, saying that the claims were factually incorrect, “without any empirical evidence whatsoever and devoid of substance”.
After the commission transferred several senior government officials, the Trinamool Congress chief alleged that it was done at the behest of the saffron party. “The way BJP is interfering in the functioning of EC, it appears to be a BJP commission,” Banerjee had said at a public meeting at Danton district of the state on March 26.