After Yogi Adityanath and Mayawati, the Election Commission barred two more senior political leaders for violation of the Model Code of Conduct this evening. Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan has been barred from campaigning for three days starting tomorrow for his "indecent and derogatory" comment against Jaya Prada, the Election Commission order said. Another senior political leader, the BJP's Union minister Maneka Gandhi, has been barred from campaigning for 48 hours for communal comments, the Commission said.
The Commission's action came hours after the Supreme Court pulled it up for failing to take action in cases of Model Code violation and questioning if it knew what powers it has to punish errant political leaders.
Maneka Gandhi, the BJP candidate from Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh, had asked a gathering of Muslims to vote for her, saying otherwise else she might not be inclined to be responsive to their requests.
In a clip of her speech, the lawmaker from Pilibhit can be heard saying: "If my victory is without Muslims, I won't feel that good... Then when a Muslim comes to me for work, I think, 'Let it be, how does it matter'? It's all give and take, isn't it? We aren't all sons of Mahatma Gandhi, are we? (laughs). It's not that we keep on giving and then losing in the election. This victory will happen with or without you".
The Commission said the minister who handles the Women and Child Development portfolio, violated the rules that bar appeal to caste and communal feelings, as well as one that bans "corrupt practices" like bribery and intimidation.
In case of Azam Khan, the Commission said his comments on electoral rival Jaya Prada "may be construed as being repugnant to the hour and dignity of women". Taking note of a ban on the leader in 2014, the Commission said he has not "changed his way of campaigning and he is indulging in using very objectionable language".
The three-day ban on Azam Khan will cut down heavily on the Samajwadi leader's campaign time. Elections in Rampur will be held on April 23 and the campaigning has to end by the evening of April 20. It would leave him only two days to campaign.
Elections for Sultanpur, from where Maneka Gandhi is contesting, will be held on May 12.
Earlier today, the Commission had handed similar orders to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Mayawati.
At a recent meeting in Deoband, Mayawati had warned the Muslim community not to "split votes" between the Congress and her alliance. Appealing to caste or communal feelings to secure votes is a no-no under the model code, which is a series of dos and don'ts for political parties ahead of elections.
Days later, hitting out at Mayawati, Yogi Adityanath said, "If the Congress, the SP and the BSP have faith in Ali, then we too have faith in Bajrang Bali" - a comment that triggered outraged protests from the opposition. While Ali is revered by Muslims as Prophet Mohammad's successor, Bajrang Bali is another name for Lord Hanuman.
While neither of them are contesting in the election, Mayawati was expected to address a rally in Agra on Tuesday. Yogi Adityanath, the star campaigner of the BJP after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, would miss a couple of rallies in Uttar Pradesh and several outside the state.
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