Mayawati, Adityanath censured for incendiary speech
SC asks Rahul to explain Rafale remark
NEW DELHI, Apr 15: India's election watchdog on Monday banned two outspoken politicians from campaigning in the country's national vote for making provocative speeches which it said could stir communal unrest.
The measures came after the Supreme Court called on the election commission to get tough on hate speech during the world's biggest election, which started last Thursday and runs through to May 19.
Mayawati, a leader for low-caste Dalits, was banned from campaigning for 48 hours for calling on Muslims to vote in a bloc against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Yogi Adityanath, firebrand BJP chief minister of India's most populous state Uttar Pradesh, was sidelined for three days for his response to Mayawati, comparing the election to a battle between Muslim and Hindu gods.
Hindus -- who make up the majority community in India -- had "no option" but to support the BJP, he added.
Both politicians made "highly provocative speeches" which had "the tone and tenor to aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred between different religious communities," the commission said.
Indian politicians are often accused of using hate speech and intimidation to win votes. The Indian campaign has been marked by headline-grabbing declarations by politicians. Adityanath has already waded into trouble by calling Muslims the "green virus" who are set to "engulf the nation".
BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj caused controversy last week by saying he was a "saint" who would put a "curse" anyone who votes against him -- while another BJP contender, Maneka Gandhi, said Muslims should vote for her or their future requests could be shunned if she wins.
The election commission -- often accused of being ineffective -- has been flooded with complaints since campaigning started in March, and the Supreme Court told it to "act very promptly" on potential violations.
The watchdog told the court its code of conduct limits the punishments it can mete out however.
"We can't de-recognise them (parties) or disqualify candidates," the counsel representing the commission at the hearing on Monday said.
The commission sought to counter critics this month by postponing the release of a fawning film biography of Modi. It also ordered a clampdown on a TV channel dedicated to the prime minister, NaMO TV.
Meanwhile, an FIR was filed against Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan on Monday for his alleged 'khaki underwear' remark directed at actor-turned politician Jaya Prada.
Meanwhile, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been told by the Supreme Court to explain his remarks during the Lok Sabha campaign where he attributed comments to the top court which had ruled on the admissibility of three sets of documents in the Rafale review petition.
The bench said Gandhi had incorrectly attributed "views, observations and findings" in the Rafale case to the top court. Gandhi has been given till next Monday to come up with his explanation. The court, however, has not issued a formal notice to him yet.
"We also make it clear that this court had no occasion to record any such views or make observations in as much as what was decided by this court was the legal admissibility of certain document to which objections were raised," the bench headed by Chief Justice of India Rajan Gogoi said. -AFP, HT