Lok Sabha elections 2019: EC doesn’t buy Navjot Sidhu explanation, imposes 72-hour campaign ban
The Election Commission Monday censured Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu and barred him from campaigning for 72 hours for alleged communal remarks during an election rally in Bihar.Updated: Apr 23, 2019 00:35 IST
The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Monday censured Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu for his remarks in which he had allegedly warned the Muslim community that efforts were on to divide their votes in Bihar, and barred him from campaigning for 72 hours.
The ban comes into force from 10 am on Tuesday.
The Punjab minister joins leaders such as UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, BSP chief Mayawati, Union minister Maneka Gandhi and SP leader Azam Khan who have faced similar campaign bans recently.
Sidhu had told the commission that his speech had been misconstrued by the media and his speech “should be taken as a whole and in context”. It has been argued, the EC order said, that he was well within his right to remind the electorate of the ideal of secularism and the speech did not violate the code of conduct.
The commission, however, did not agree with this line and concluded that Navjot Sidhu had sought support on religious lines.
“The commission...strongly condemns the impugned statements made by him during election campaign...,” the order read. The poll watchdog said Sidhu should have “desisted himself in making statements that have the undertone and propensity to polarize the elections…”
It also “censured” him for the “misconduct”.
“The Commission, under Article 324 of the Constitution of India and all other powers enabling in this behalf, bars 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 10am on April 23, 2019,” it said.
Addressing an election rally in Katihar on April 16, the cricketer-turned-politician had stoked a controversy by urging Muslim voters of a Lok Sabha constituency in Bihar with sizeable population of the minority community to vote en bloc and defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The comments by the former test cricketer came when he was canvassing in support of veteran Congress leader and former Union minister Tariq Anwar. The EC said Sidhu has violated provisions of the model code, election law and a Supreme Court direction asking politicians not to mix religion with political discourse while electioneering.