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Three opposition parties approach EC; ask for half a day more for campaigning

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By PTI Updated: May 17, 2019 12:00 am
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New Delhi, May 16 (PTI): Three opposition parties, including the Congress, on Thursday approached the Election Commission over its order curtailing the time period for campaigning in West Bengal, terming it “violative” of the doctrine of level-playing field and urged the poll body to give at least half a day more for electioneering.

A delegation comprising Congress’ Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Ahmed Patel, TDP leader C M Ramesh and AAP’s Sanjay Singh presented their stand before the EC on the issue.

The opposition parties requested for urgent and necessary review of the order prohibiting election campaigning in West Bengal after 10 pm Thursday, claiming it was violative of the doctrine of level-playing field and Article 14 of the Constitution which provides for equality before the law.

In first such action in India’s electoral history, the EC on Wednesday ordered campaigning in nine West Bengal constituencies to end at 10 pm Thursday, a day before its scheduled deadline, in the wake of violence between the BJP and TMC workers in Kolkata on Tuesday.

The EC’s action came a day after parts of Kolkata witnessed wide-spread violence during BJP president Amit Shah’s massive road show in the city. A bust of 19th century Bengali icon Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was vandalised during the violence.

In their memorandum to the poll watchdog, the opposition parties said the EC, instead of enforcing a level-playing field, has “arbitrarily” decided to cut off campaigning to the “prejudice” of all other parties.

This, in fact, benefits the BJP which has two rallies scheduled, they said, adding this order of the EC, truncating the campaign period, “fails to meet the standard of reasonableness or even of application of mind”.

“We urge that this commission re-considers its decision and penalise the one who propagated the violence and violated its electoral laws in such a blatant manner. Punishing those who are innocent by taking such an arbitrary decision will result in a grotesque precedent being set,” the parties said.

Singhvi told reporters outside the EC office, “I would say that if the EC considers the facts presented by us, it can allow campaign for half a day more. The final decision is in their hands. All options are open for us.”

The delegation also requested the Election Commission for urgent and necessary directions to election officials to order re-polling in Domariyaganj Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh.

They also called for various safeguards for the EVMs to ensure electoral integrity and free and fair elections.

The leaders also raised the issue of “failure” to provide security to MLA Aditi Singh in Rae Bareli. The Congress on Wednesday condemned the attack on its Rae Bareli legislator Aditi Singh, blaming it on what it called the “hired goons of the BJP” in Uttar Pradesh.

Can’t muzzle campaigning; but can’t allow violence too — EC

The Election Commission took a “judicious” decision to ban campaigning in West Bengal from Thursday night and not morning as it was against abruptly taking away the right of political parties to seek votes but at the same time wanted violence to end ahead of May 19 polls, sources have said.

The Commission has been under attack from political parties for not curtailing campaigning in nine Lok Sabha seats in the state from Thursday morning.

The opposition alleged that it was done to accommodate rallies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the state.

The campaigning in West Bengal ended at 10.00 PM Thursday. It was otherwise to end on Friday evening at 6.00 PM.

“We have a list. There were over 15 political rallies/ roadshows today by various parties and leaders. We could not have abruptly banned it. The idea was not to show our muscle. The idea was also not to muzzle the campaigning. The basic idea was to show that EC has its own ways to contain situations,” a functionary explained.

He said a senior leader of a political party has been given the list of rallies in West Bengal on Thursday to drive home the point.

Meanwhile, sources denied reports that EC’s special observers had recommended an “immediate ban” on campaigning in West Bengal. “It is factually incorrect. Their job is to give ground report. How would they know EC was contemplating ban using its constitutional powers,” a functionary said.

The EC’s action on Wednesday came a day after parts of Kolkata witnessed widespread violence during BJP president Amit Shah’s massive road show in the city. A bust of 19th century Bengali icon Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar was also vandalised during the violence.

6092
By PTI Updated: May 17, 2019 12:00:35 am