The day the Supreme Court expressed displeasure at the delay in acting against hate speeches on the campaign trail, the Election Commission (EC) acted by temporarily banning several top leaders from SP, BSP and BJP over their remarks. This has been an effort by the EC to pro-actively deal with the hate speeches and unfair campaigning which was violating the model code of conduct in force since 10th March 2019. The list of banned leaders includes BSP chief Mayawati, SP leader Azam Khan and BJP leader Yogi Adityanath.
SP leader Azam Khan, quite prone to controversy made a highly abusive remark on actor turned politician Jaya Prada while addressing a poll campaign rally at Rampur. He said, “Jaya Prada ke neeche ka underwear Khaki rang ka hai.” The National Commission for Women on Monday strongly condemned this extremely derogatory remark and issued a show cause notice to him.
The commission said that his remark was “offensive, unethical and show disrespect towards dignity of women”. “The Commission strongly condemns such irresponsible and disparaging comments on the matter. You are required to provide a satisfactory explanation to the Commission on the matter,” NCW Under Secretary Barnali Shome said in the notice.
On the request by the NCW, EC has temporarily banned the leader from campaigning for a period of 72 hours, along with which an FIR has been filed against him for his remarks.
Similarly, Maneka Gandhi has been banned due to her comments in her campaign speech asking Muslims in Sultanpur to vote for her if they wanted jobs.
Yogi Adityanath has been temporarily banned from campaigning by the EC for a period of 72 hours. The ban is in light of his comments in a rally wherein he said, “If the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the BSP have faith in Ali, then we too have faith in Bajrang Bali.”
This comment is in response to Mayawati’s own comments in which she attempted to communalise the UP elections. During her speech in Deoband, she had stated, “I am appealing to as well as warning Muslims not to divide their votes this time. The Mahagathbandhan will throw out the BJP government.” This comment has breached the model code of conduct, which states, “There shall be no appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes.” Due to these remarks, the poll authorities in Uttar Pradesh had sent a factual report to the Election Commission to ascertain whether these remarks were violative of the code of conduct. Thereafter it was found that she had indeed violated the code and hence had been banned from campaigning for a period of 48 hours.
Mayawati realised that being the star campaigner and practically the only recognizable face in the entire BSP clan, her being banned is going to have huge repercussions for the party. Therefore, in a desperate attempt to save her party from the inevitable gloom, she had moved the Supreme Court, appealing against the ban and unfortunately didn’t get any reprieve from the court.
Playing her usual “victim card” she criticised the poll body for its “anti-Dalit” remarks. “The decision by the Election Commission to impose a 48 hour-ban on me was taken under some kind of pressure….I have been denied the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression. This day will be known as a black day in the history of EC,” Mayawati said.
However, the Supreme Court was all for the punishment. The Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi stated, “It seems the Election Commission has woken up by our orders and barred various politicians from campaigning for varying timing.”
Although the EC has imposed similar temporary bans on all the leaders, the actual ramifications of the order will differ from party to party. Even though UP CM Yogi is one of the star campaigners of BJP and has a busy schedule this election, BJP boasts other big names and stalwarts, including the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis and Union Minister Smriti Irani among others to sustain the campaign momentum. So, therefore, the ban of one leader, although tragic will not hamper BJP if viewed from a holistic point.
However, this is not the case with BSP of which Mayawati is the only recognizable leader with no second in command in sight who can hold the fort in her absence. Her invisibility from the campaign during this time will affect not only the electoral fortunes of BSP but will also affect the Mahagathbandhan with which it is tied as of now.
Moreover, Indian citizens vote for BJP as they believe in the ideology. The crux of the voters includes the middle class and upper-class citizens who vote for the party due to its policies and precedents. BSP, on the other hand, believes in one to one campaigning, appealing the people to vote on the basis of electoral promises. This ban on the BSP chief is going to have heavy repercussions on the party’s performance these elections. For the voters, Mayawati is as good as out of sight, out of mind.