Strongly condemning her controversial remark on the Babri Masjid’s demolition in a TV interview, the Election Commission (EC) warned BJP leader Pragya Singh Thakur on Wednesday and barred her from campaigning for three days, starting 6 am on Thursday.
Pragya, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case and BJP’s candidate from Bhopal, had, in an interview to TV9 on April 20, bragged about climbing atop the Babri Masjid in 1992 to demolish it.
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In the interview, Thakur had said, “Ram Mandir hum banayenge, evam bhavya banayenge. Hum todne gaye the dhancha, maine chadh kar toda tha dhancha iss par mujhe garv hai. Mujhe Ishwar ne shakti di thi humne desh ka kalank mitaya hai.” “(We will build Ram temple and build a grand one. We had gone to demolish the structure, I am proud that I climbed the structure and demolished it. God gave me power and we removed a blot on the nation).”
EC’s three-day ban on Thakur’s campaign comes a little over a week after it ordered an FIR against her for the same remark. The FIR was filed by the Madhya Pradesh police under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the IPC.
Although Thakur, in her reply to EC’s showcause notice, had claimed that she did not make the comment with the intention to rattle religious sentiments and that the remark was merely an expression of her “inner voice”, the Commission ruled that her utterance was “provocative” and a clear violation of the Model Code of Conduct, that prohibits candidates from making communally divisive statements.
She was banned from holding any public meetings, rallies, processions, road shows and interviews for 72 hours, starting 6 am on Thursday.
In a separate decision, the Commission reprimanded and imposed a three-day ban on Congress leader Babubhai Rayka for abusing Gujarat MLA Jitu Vaghani while addressing party workers and voters in Gujarat on April 11. Vaghani was also barred by EC for 72 hours this week for using “intemperate and abusive language” at an election meet.
That apart, a showcause notice was issued to Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu for calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi “the biggest liar” in his speech at an election meeting in Ahmedabad on April 17. The Commission in its notice observed that Sidhu’s remark was a prima facie violation of the Model Code provision that prohibits candidates from making unverified allegations against their political opponents. Sidhu has time till 6 pm on Thursday to respond to the notice.
Amidst the above decisions, the Commission let one leader off the hook. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath at a rally in Khandwa district on April 14 had criticised the Prime Minister saying that “aakhri din (final days)” and not “ache din (good days)” are upon everyone. The EC found no Model Code violation in his speech.