Union Minister Anurag Thakur and BJP MP Parvesh Verma have been banned from campaigning for Delhi elections for 72 and 96 hours, respectively, after making hate speeches, the Election Commission said today. Both will also remain off their party's "star campaigner" list for the Delhi election, the poll body added, reiterating instructions issued to the BJP yesterday evening.
The order comes after shocking comments by both during election rallies this week, in which Mr Thakur urged a crowd to "goli maaro (gun down traitors)" and Mr Verma claimed those who have mounted a weeks-long peaceful sit-in protest at Shaheen Bagh against the controversial citizenship law "will enter your houses, rape your sisters and daughters".
It is important to note that on expiry of their bans both Mr Thakur and Mr Verma will be free to campaign once more. Being removed from the list of "star campaigners" only means the expenditure they incur will be added to candidate's expenditure that is capped at 28 lakhs; "star campaigners" are exempted from such limits.
On Monday Anurag Thakur, a Minister of State, was caught on camera at a rally in North West Delhi chanting the first half of a slogan that concludes with a call to gun down traitors.
In a widely-shared video, Mr Thakur, who was campaigning for Manish Chaudhary, can be seen chanting "desh ke gaddaron ko", to which the crowd enthusiastically replied "goli maaro sa***n ko"; the entire chant translates to "shoot down the traitors who betray the country".
A defiant Anurag Thakur later told reporters who asked him to identify the "traitors": "First you should watch the entire video... Then you should see the mood of the people of Delhi."
The following day Parvesh Verma, the BJP's West Delhi MP, said: "Lakhs of people gather there (Shaheen Bagh). They will enter your houses, rape your sisters and daughters, kill them. There's time today... Modi-ji and Amit Shah won't come to save you tomorrow".
Addressing an election rally in Vikaspuri in North Delhi, he declared the protesters will be cleared in an hour if the BJP were to come to power and "within a month, we will not spare a single mosque built on government land".
Mr Verma may face additional action from the Election Commission after Delhi's ruling AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) filed a complaint over an alleged hate speech he made last week, in which he repeatedly called Mr Kejriwal a "terrorist".
The AAP has also demanded a FIR be registered against Parvesh Verma.
The Election Commission yesterday also cautioned others from similarly incendiary comments, saying: "No appeal shall be made on basis of caste/communal feelings of the electors".
The poll body also said: "No activity, which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes/communities/religious/linguistic groups, shall be attempted".
The caution comes after another BJP leader - Kapil Mishra - who was formerly with the AAP - received a 48-hour campaigning ban from 5 pm on January 25 for tweets Delhi Police said were "creating enmity among classes".
The comment the poll body took objection to was a post referring to "mini-Pakistans" in Delhi. It called it "highly objectionable" and said it "appeals to communal feelings".
Mr Mishra, who has a history of making communal and incendiary comments, is the BJP's candidate from the Model Town constituency for next month's Assembly election.
Delhi votes to fill its 70-member Assembly on February 8, with results due three days later. The AAP swept 67 seats in 2015 polls (leaving three for the BJP) and hopes for a similarly commanding performance this time around.