The Election Commission today invoked Article 324 of the Constitution to prohibit election campaigning in nine constituencies of West Bengal from 10 pm on Thursday until the conclusion of the Lok Sabha polls on April 19. It took the decision in view of clashes between the BJP and the Trinamool Congress over the last 24 hours, which resulted in largescale vandalism and damage to an iconic statue of 19th Century social reformer Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar.
The Election Commission directive means that campaigning in these constituencies will end nearly a day ahead of the actual 5 pm deadline on Friday.
Article 324 of the Constitution charts out the various powers and responsibilities of the country’s Election Commission for ensuring free-and-fair polling across the country. “The superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to Parliament and to the Legislature of every State and of elections to the offices of President and Vice President held under this Constitution shall be vested in a Commission (referred to in this Constitution as the Election Commission),” the first section of the provision reads.
According to a press release issued by the Election Commission, this was “probably” the first time it has invoked Article 324 to cut short campaigning ahead of parliamentary polls in certain constituencies. Through its order issued on Wednesday evening, the agency ruled that no person will be allowed to “(a) convene, hold, attend, join or address any public meeting or procession in connection with an election, (b) display to the public any election matter by means of cinematograph, television or similar apparatus, or (c) propagate any election matter to the public by holding, or by arranging the holding of, any musical concert… or any other entertainment with a view to attract members of the public”.
It also prohibited the sale or distribution of liquor at any hotel or catering establishment in the nine parliamentary constituencies under question, and ordered the removal of the West Bengal Principal Secretary (Home) and Additional Director General (Criminal Investigation Department).
The violence had erupted while a roadshow taken out by BJP chief Amit Shah was passing by Kolkata’s Vidyasagar College on Tuesday evening. Both the parties have accused each other of sparking the clashes, and Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien has approached the Election Commission with videos that allegedly show BJP workers vandalising Vidyasagar’s statue.
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