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Mamata gets EC notice for appeal to minorities not to split their votes

The Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday issued a notice to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for allegedly violating the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) with her appeal last week to minority voters not to divide their votes between different political parties.

The Trinamool chief has 48 hours to present the Commission with a defence.

On April 3, at an election rally at Tarakeshwar in Hooghly, Banerjee told voters, “I am requesting my minority brothers and sisters with folded hands, don’t divide minority votes after listening to the devil (shaitaan) who has taken money from the BJP. He passes many communal statements and provokes clashes between Hindus and Muslims. He is one of the followers of the BJP, a comrade. The comrades of the CPM and BJP are roaming around with money given by the
BJP to divide minority votes. Please don’t allow them to do so.”

She further said, “I also appeal to my Hindu brothers and sisters not to divide yourselves as Hindus and Muslims after listening to the BJP.”

Reacting to her statements, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a rally in north Bengal’s Coochbehar on Tuesday that Banerjee’s “desperate” appeal to Muslims “not to split minority votes” showed she knew her party had lost the elections. He also said, “I don’t know if Didi has got notices from the Election Commission. But had I said all Hindus must unite and vote for the BJP, the EC would have sent me eight to 10 notices.”

The EC’s notice on Wednesday said Banerjee’s remark was in violation of the MCC and provisions of the Representation of the People Act 1951 that forbids candidates from seeking votes on religious grounds.

Following the EC notice, the TMC on Wednesday questioned the Commission’s neutrality. “Mamatadi issued notice by ECI on BJP’s complaint. What about TMC complaints of 1. Video evidence of BJP candidate distributing cash, 2. Cash coupons distributed to attend BJP meeting & vote. Gentlemen – at least keep up the farce of impartiality,” TMC MP Mahua Moitra tweeted.

Speaking at a press conference in Cooch Behar, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said, “Not just a notice, we would request the Election Commission to bar her from campaigning. Her statements are dangerous and divisive.”

Apart from the notice, the Commission also transferred three officers ahead of the fourth phase of elections. Dakhshin Dinajpur District Election Officer (DEO) Nikhil Nirmal has been replaced by C Murugan. Shilpa Gaurisaria will replace Enaur Rahman as DEO of Purba Bardhaman. DEO Paschim Bardhaman Purnendu Kumar Majhi has been replaced by Anurag Shrivastava.

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