Hours after the Election Commission barred BSP chief Mayawati from addressing any public meeting, procession, rally or giving interviews or comments to the media for 48 hours starting 6 am Tuesday as part of action against “impugned statements” by her during an election campaign in Deoband, Mayawati on Monday called the poll panel’s decision “unprecedented, unconstitutional and cruel”.
Speaking with the media at the BSP office in Lucknow, Mayawati alleged that the EC decision came under pressure, to prevent her from appealing “the people to remove the BJP from power”. She alleged that the ruling party is “scared” after the first phase of elections.
Taking on the poll panel, Mayawati’s alliance partner in Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, put up a line from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent speech in which he ostensibly asked the youth to remember the paramilitary personnel killed in the Pulwama attack while voting. Akhilesh tweeted: “EC directive against @mayawati ji begs the question: do they have integrity to stop PM from asking for votes in name of the army? Here’s the quote @ECISVEEP: “main first-time voters se kehna chahta hoon ki aapka pehla vote Pulwama mein jo veer shahid huay unke naam samarpit hai kya?”
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On April 11, the EC had served a showcause notice on Mayawati and sought her response on the allegations against her. She had replied to the poll panel the following day.
On Monday, the BSP chief said: “In the showcause notice, there was no allegation that I made any provocative speech because of which hate between different communities will increase. There was only one allegation in the notice: that I am asking for votes from one particular community. In the reply, I made it clear that nowhere in my speech did I demand vote on (the basis of) caste or religion — I clearly appealed people of every class and religion to vote for the (SP-BSP-RLD) alliance’s candidate.”
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According to the BSP chief, she made a “special appeal” to the Muslim community to “not let their vote be divided because of any relative”. She said: “It (the appeal) clearly intended that Muslims should not let their votes be split on the basis of religion, and it should go (en bloc) to the alliance candidate in order to defeat BJP.” She also said the poll panel did not provide her any CD of her speech.
Mayawati maintained that April 15 will be remembered as a “black day in the history of the Election Commission”, and that the order was intended to stop her from attending an important political rally in Agra on Tuesday.
“With this unprecedented order, (made) in an unconstitutional and cruel way, I have been prevented from my basic rights to go anywhere and speak…. This hassled decision appears to be taken under some pressure… Intention behind this order is clear: that as the BSP chief I cannot appeal the people to remove the BJP from power,” she said.
She said EC knew that the BSP has a rally planned in Agra on Tuesday, the last day of campaigning for the second phase of elections, and alleged that stopping her from doing that was the intention behind the order to bar her from any campaign for 48 hours. And if that was not the intent, she added, the EC could have started the ban from April 17.
Comparing the ban on her with that on Yogi Adityanath, she said the EC ruling will not affect the BJP to any large extent, as unlike her the UP Chief Minister is not his party’s president. She said: “BJP president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been given full freedom to spread hate between different communities and play with the security of the country…. India is a democratic country, and the people make up their mind on who to vote for from public speeches (of different leaders). In such a condition, this sudden order is, what else if not the murder of democracy?”