The Election Commission (EC) of India on Monday barred Congress leader and Punjab Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu from holding public meeting, road show, public rally and media interviews in connection with the ongoing Lok Sabha Elections 2019. The ban has been imposed for 72 hours beginning from Tuesday morning. The development came on the heels of Sidhu's controversial remarks in which he allegedly warned the Muslim community that efforts were on to divide their votes in Bihar.
"Election Commission of India bars Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu from holding any public meeting, road show, public rally and interviews in media in connection with ongoing elections, for 72 hours from 10 am on 23 April 2019," the news agency ANI reported.
Election Commission of India bars Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu from holding any public meeting, road show, public rally & interviews in media in connection with ongoing elections, for 72 hours from 10 am on 23 April 2019. #LokSabhaElections2019 pic.twitter.com/VqPOjAAOg2— ANI (@ANI) April 22, 2019
On Saturday, the poll panel issued a show cause notice to Sidhu, asking him to respond within 24 hours. It also added that strict action will be taken against the Punjab minister in case he fails to reply within the given time. The EC said prima facie he has violated provisions of the model code of conduct, election law and a Supreme Court direction asking politicians not to mix religion with political discourse while electioneering.
The poll panel pointed out that an FIR has already been lodged against him in Bihar's Kathiar under some sections of the penal code and section 123 of the Representation of the People Act. Section 123 (3) bars promotion of, or attempt to promote, feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of India on grounds of religion, race, caste, community, or language, by a candidate or his agent or any other person.
Addressing an election rally in Katihar last week, the cricketer-turned-politician triggered a political firestorm as he appealed to the Muslim Community to vote en bloc and defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections 2019.
"Do not consider yourself as being in a minority. You constitute the majority here. You are about 64 per cent. Do not fall into the trap laid down by people like Owaisi. They have been propped up by the BJP," Sidhu was quoted as saying at Barasol in the Balrampur assembly segment under the Katihar Lok Sabha seat in Bihar.
Katihar, one of the 40 parliamentary constituencies in Bihar, went to polls in the second phase of General Elections on April 18. The seven phase Lok Sabha elections is scheduled to be held between April 11 and May 19. The counting of votes for all phase will be taken up on May 23.