Mamata stages dharna in Kolkata to protest 24-hr campaign ban

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(Eds: Adds details) Kolkata, Apr 13 (PTI) West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday staged a 3.5-hour-long dharna in the heart of the city to protest against the Election Commission's 'unconstitutional' decision to bar her from campaigning for 24 hours.

Banerjee, still confined to a wheelchair owing to the injuries she sustained in Nandigram last month, arrived at Mayo Road here around 11.40 am and began her sit-in next to a statue of Mahatma Gandhi, with the security personnel having cordoned off the area.

No TMC leaders or supporters were spotted nearby.

A senior TMC leader, when approached, said, 'No party member was allowed anywhere near the site of the dharna. She sat there alone.' The CM, who had a black scarf wrapped around her neck as a mark of protest, took to painting -- one of her favourite hobbies -- during the 3.5-hour sit-in.

The Election Commission (EC) has barred the TMC boss from campaigning for 24 hours from Monday 8 pm for her remarks against central forces and a statement which had alleged religious overtones.

Banerjee, lashing out at the EC, had said on Twitter that she would sit on a dharna in protest against its 'unconstitutional and undemocratic' decision.

She is scheduled to address two rallies after 8 pm on Tuesday -- one at Barasat and the other at Bidhannagar.

Criticising Banerjee over her decision to hold a protest in the city, state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said the TMC supremo has 'no regard for the poll panel'.

'There have been instances when the EC banned our leaders from campaigning. We have always respected the EC's decision. What she (Banerjee) did is unacceptable,' he said.