The Election Commission on Monday barred Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Azam Khan from campaigning for 72 hours and BJP leader Maneka Gandhi for 48 hours starting from 10 am on Tuesday for violating Model Code of Conduct. The veteran Samajwadi Party leader has stoked a controversy with an inappropriate remark against film actor and BJP candidate Jaya Prada, fighting the Lok Sabha polls from Rampur against him.
Khan, without taking names, on Sunday had said it took "you 17 years to understand her reality" but, "I could recognise it in 17 days that she wears a khaki underwear". The BJP claimed that the comment was made against Prada, who is fighting the Lok Sabha polls against the Samajwadi Party (SP) leader.
Kicking up a political storm, Union minister Maneka Gandhi warned the Muslim community that if they do not vote for her, she will not “help” them in future. A video clip of her political rally in Sultanpur Lok Sabha constituency on Thursday showed the minister telling voters that it is all about “give and take”. The three-minute clip has gone viral on various social media platforms.
On Friday, the Congress on Friday moved the Election Commission against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for allegedly "dragging" the armed forces in the political domain and over Union minister Maneka Gandhi's remarks on Muslims. The party had demanded that an FIR be registered against Maneka Gandhi and cancel her nomination.
Earlier in the day, the EC had barred UP chief minister Adityanath for 72 hours for 48 hours for their religious comments.
The actor-turned-politician, who was earlier with the SP and has now been pitted by the BJP against Khan from Rampur Lok Sabha seat, demanded his immediate disqualification from contesting polls and said she had considered him a brother but he has now crossed the 'lakshman rekha'.
After examining the remarks made at an election rally on Sunday by Khan, the Election Commission on Monday night imposed a nationwide ban on him from campaigning for 72 hours, beginning Tuesday.
During the last Lok Sabha elections in 2014, the EC had imposed a ban on Khan from campaigning in Uttar Pradesh for his provocative speeches and had also lodged an FIR against him.
Khan, however, remained defiant and said he did not name any person in his speech and if anyone proves that he had taken any name or maligned anyone then he would not contest the polls.
Jaya Prada had represented Rampur twice in Lok Sabha after winning in 2004 and 2009 as a Samajwadi Party leader. Later she was expelled from the party, along with Amar Singh, following differences with Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Last month she joined BJP and has been nominated as the saffron party's candidate against Khan from Rampur, which goes to polls on April 23.
Khan and some other SP leaders sought to suggest that Khan's comments were targeted at Singh, who is considered her mentor in UP politics. As the remarks drew a sharp criticism, with the BJP launching a scathing attack on him and other SP leaders including the party chief Akhilesh Yadav who was allegedly himself present at the rally, the police lodged an FIR against Khan.
Rampur's District Magistrate Aajaneya Kumar Singh told news agency PTI: "An FIR has been registered against Azam Khan under section 509 of the IPC (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) and under sections of the Representation of People's Act."
The National Commission for Women (NCW) issued a show cause notice to Khan, saying his remarks were "extremely derogatory, offensive, unethical and show disrespect towards dignity of women". It also urged the EC to take "strong action" against the SP leader.
The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) also asked the EC to take strict action against politicians making "disparaging" comments against women.
Union Minister Sushma Swaraj questioned SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav's silence on the matter and asked him not to stay silent like 'Bhishma Pitamah' did at disrobing of Draupadi in Mahabharata.
Tagging a video of Khan's remarks, Swaraj tweeted, "Brother Mulayam, you are the patriarch of the Samajwadi Party. In Rampur, Draupadi is being disrobed in front of you. Don't commit the mistake of staying silent like Bhishma Pitamah", referring to an incident from the famous Indian mythology Mahabharata.
Swaraj also tagged SP president Akhilesh Yadav, who was allegedly present at the rally when Khan made the controversial remarks, his wife Dimple Yadav and film star Jaya Bachchan, who is also an SP leader.
At an election rally in Gujarat, BJP chief Amit Shah hit out at Khan and his party, as well as its ally in Uttar Pradesh BSP, and sought their apology for their leader's "disgusting" remark, calling it an insult to crores of mothers and sisters", not Jaya Prada alone.
BJP leader and union minister Smriti Irani also questioned the silence of the Congress and its allies on Khan's remarkes and alleged it was a clear indication that those connected with the UPA were disrespectful towards women.
"There is silence on the part of the Congress, its allies and other such political parties on the derogatory comments of Azam Khan...there has not been any opposition to it nor any condemnation...this proves that those in the UPA are disrespectful towards women," she told reporters in Amethi, where she is fighting Lok Sabha election against Rahul Gandhi.
Speaking to reporters in Rampur, Jaya Prada said, "(Khan has) crossed the lakshman rekha (his limits) this time. He is no longer a brother to me. I had considered him as my brother and tolerated everything, but now I cannot tolerate (this)."
Seeking an answer from SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, she said, "I am asking Akihlesh, whether you will allow such a person to contest the polls. Shame. He (Khan) should be expelled."
Amar Singh also attacked Khan, calling him "filth and muck" of Indian politics. The former SP leader also alleged Khan of distributing Jaya Prada's morphed pictures during last elections and of launching a vicious propaganda against him and the actor-politician.