India's West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was banned from campaigning in Bengal for 24 hours this evening over speeches that the Election Commission said violated the rules.
Mamata was accused of breaking the law with her comments on Muslim votes and for allegedly urging voters to revolt against central security forces, reports the NDTV.
The ban till 8 pm on Tuesday - outgoing Election Commissioner Sunil Arora's final order - came half-way through the Bengal election, with four more rounds of voting left in an intense campaign pitting Mamata Banerjee against a galaxy of BJP leaders including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress blasted the Election Commission, dubbing it "Extremely Compromised" - not for the first time.
The Bengal Chief Minister, 66, had been served two notices last week by the Election Commission, which said her replies to them betrayed "selective amnesia".
She was asked to explain her speeches on 28 March and 7 April, allegedly accusing central forces of intimidating voters and urging women to hit back or surround the security personnel.
"Who gave so much power to them that the central police are threatening the women without allowing them to cast their votes? I saw the same thing in 2019, I saw the same thing in 2016," she said in the March rally.
"I know under whose instruction they beat up people and how they beat up. It is your duty to save the families of the people. If any of our mothers and sisters suffer a single strike with the stick, attack them with ladles, spuds and knife. I am telling you. It is the right of women. And if any of our mothers and sisters are denied entry in the voting compartment all of you come out and revolt," she allegedly said.
In Cooch Behar, she made "highly objectionable remarks" on the Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF), said the election body.
"If the CAPF (Central Armed Police Forces) create disturbances, I tell you ladies, a group of you go and restrain (gherao) them while another group will go to cast their votes. Don't waste your vote. If you engage yourself only in restraining them they will be happy that you did not cast your vote. This is their plan. This is the plan of the BJP. And your plan will be that you will not be scared if they try to intimidate you coming to your village on the one hand, and on the other you just talk to them," Mamata said.
The Election Commission called these "false, provocative and intemperate statements" that "vilified" central forces and had caused "extreme demoralisation" in their ranks.
In another notice, the Chief Minister was accused of "openly demanding votes on communal grounds" while campaigning in Hooghly district on 3 April.
"I am requesting my minority brothers and sisters with folded hands... don't divide the minority votes after listening to the devil... who had taken money from the BJP... He passes many communal statements and initiates clashes between Hindus and Muslims... comrades of the CPM and BIP is roaming around with money given by BJP to divide the minority votes," Mamata Banerjee had said.
Reacting to that notice, she said a day later: "You (EC) can issue 10 show-cause notices to me, but my reply will be the same. I will always speak against any division in Hindu, Muslim votes. I will always stand against division of voters along religious lines."
Mamata Banerjee has had a running feud with the Election Commission in these polls. She was earlier warned over a "factually incorrect" complaint over voting in Nandigram, where she faces her aide-turned-BJP rival Suvendu Adhikari.
The results of the Bengal election will be declared 2 May.