EC bans Sidhu from campaigning for 72 hours over communal remarks

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission of India on Monday banned Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu from campaigning for 72 hours over his controversial remarks made at a rally in Bihar’s Katihar. The remarks pertain to a rally Sidhu addressed at Barasol, which falls under the Katihar Lok Sabha seat in Bihar, on April 16.

EC bans Sidhu from campaigning for 72 hours over communal remarks

Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu addresses an election rally for Lok Sabha polls, in Katihar on April 16, 2019. PTI file photo

Tribune News Service
New Delhi, April 22

The Election Commission of India on Monday banned Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu from campaigning for 72 hours over his controversial remarks made at a rally in Bihar’s Katihar.

His ban starts at 10 am on Tuesday.

Using its extraordinary powers under Article 324 of the Constitution, the Commission censured Siddhu and barred him “from holding any public meetings, public processions, public rallies, road shows and interviews, public utterances in media (electronic, print, social media) etc in connection with ongoing elections for 72 hours from 10 am on 23rd April, 2019”.

The commission said the decision was taken after it “carefully” went through Sidhu’s emailed response dated April 21, 2019, in which he had accepted to have “made the impugned statement”.

“The Commission is also of the view that Sh. Navjot Singh Siddhu, in his impugned speech, has appealed to secured votes on religious lines that is tantamount to violation of provisions of... Model Code of Conduct for the guidelines of political parties and candidates,” the commission said in its ban order.

Siddhu claimed in his reply that his statements were “misquoted/misconstrued by the media” and that his speech should be taken “as whole and in context”.

But the poll said: “The Commission has again seen the video recording of his impugned speech and is convinced that he has made an objectionable speech which has tone and tenor to aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred between different religious communities”.

The remarks pertain to a rally Sidhu addressed at Barasol, which falls under the Katihar Lok Sabha seat in Bihar, on April 16. While campaigning for veteran Congress leader Tariq Anwar, Sidhu told the crowd: "Do not consider yourself as being in a minority. You constitute the majority here. You are about 64 per cent. Do not fall into the trap laid down by people like Owaisi (president of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen). They have been propped up by the BJP."

The outcry that followed led to a criminal case being registered against him.

Sidhu joins a list of leaders who have been taken to task this election season for their controversial speeches. Leaders like Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath, Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati, Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Maneka Gandhi, and another BJP leader, Himachal Pradesh’s Satpal Satti, have already faced EC’s reproach and temporary bans on their campaigning. Controversial BJP leader Pragya Thakur, the party’s candidate from Bhopal, has also been issued a notice for her recent remarks.  

Model Code of Conduct, which has been in force since the commission announced election schedule on March 10, forbids the use of religion for propaganda. 

Section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, bars promotion of, or attempt to promote, feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of India on grounds of religion, race, caste, community, or language, by a candidate or his agent or any other person.

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