India’s election commission yesterday banned Bharatiya Janata Party leader Amit Shah from campaigning in Uttar Pradesh, the nation’s most-populous state.
Shah, a key aide of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, and head of the party’s campaign in the state, has made “inflammatory speeches” during election rallies, the commission said in a statement on its website. The commission also barred Azam Khan, an Uttar Pradesh minister and member of the regional Samajwadi Party, from canvassing in the state.
Uttar Pradesh, the northern state that’s home to 200 million people, sends 80 lawmakers to Parliament -- more than any other area. The BJP has never formed a national government without winning the most seats there, and took at least 29 of the state’s constituencies in the three times it held power. Modi will contest the election in the state’s constituency of Varanasi, one of Hinduism’s holiest cities, which goes to the polls on May 12.
“No permission should be granted for holding any public meetings, public processions, public rallies, road shows, etc., by the district administration authorities, where the above two leaders are expected or likely to participate,” the commission said in the statement. It asked the state administration to file a report and start criminal proceedings against Khan and Shah.
Police this week filed a hate speech complaint against Shah for telling a Hindu crowd in Shamli, Uttar Pradesh that a vote for the party would be tantamount to “revenge” for religious riots in the state, according to Arvind Pundir, an official at a police station in the town near where about 50 people died in clashes between Hindus and Muslims last year.
Meenakshi Lekhi, a BJP spokeswoman, didn’t answer two calls made to her mobile phone seeking comment.
The election commission is “trying a balancing act” by putting the bans on Shah and Khan, Sushil Kumar Modi, a member of the BJP said in a Twitter feed posted on the party’s website.
About 815 million eligible voters, more than double the U.S. population, will pick the 543 lawmakers in nine rounds of voting from April 7 to May 12. Results will be announced May 16 as votes are counted from the Himalayas to islands in the Bay of Bengal.
In another incident, Maoist rebels killed 13, including seven election officials, five police officers and a civilian, in two separate blasts in districts of Jagdalpur and Bijapur in the central state of Chhattisgarh, according to the state’s police control room. This is second such attack in the province in a month.
On March 11, Maoists killed 16 people, including 15 security personnel, in an ambush in Chhattisgarh.