The Election Commission’s move to bar Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and BSP leader Mayawati from campaigning is an uncommon censure. The ban is expected to affect Mayawati’s BSP more because she is the sole star campaigner for the party.
The poll panel has barred Yogi from campaigning for three days and Mayawati for two days starting 6 am on April 16. This means the leaders will miss the last day of the campaign ahead of the second phase of elections on April 18. Eight constituencies of Uttar Pradesh will vote in the second phase — Nagina, Amroha, Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Hathras, Mathura, Agra, and Fatehpur Sikri.
Mayawati was scheduled to address a rally in Agra on Tuesday, which she will not be able to do now. Yogi was to address rallies in Nagina and Fatehpur Sikri and was expected to campaign outside UP on April 17 and 18.
The two leaders have been punished with the ban for making objectionable statements in their speeches. In its order, the Commission has said it is convinced that both leaders had “made a highly provocative speech which has the tone and tenor to aggravate existing differences and create mutual hatred between different religious communities and (is) thus violative of… provisions of Model Code of Conduct”.
The UP Chief Minister had “accepted the reference to ‘hara virus’ and to… Bajrang Bali”, the Commission said. The BSP chief, it said, had “accepted that in her speech a special mention was made to the minority community of Muslims to vote in a consolidated manner in favour of the candidate of coalition parties”.
Mayawati spoke in Deoband on April 7; Yogi in Meerut on April 9. To both, the Commission has said that “being a senior leader”, they “should have desisted… (from) making statements that have the undertone and propensity to polarize the elections which is not confined to the constituency only where the statement is made, but to the other parts as well due to fast dissemination of information in this digital age”.
In the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the poll panel had cracked the whip on BJP president Amit Shah and SP leader Azam Khan, banning them from holding public meetings, processions or roadshows in Uttar Pradesh, and had directed the state chief secretary to initiate criminal proceedings against them in case there was a violation.