IN a drastic and unprecedented move, India’s election commission has cut off campaigning early in the eastern state of West Bengal following days of clashes.

Their actions come in the final stretch of the country’s marathon election.

The three-member commission said in the order yesterday that “growing incidents of disruption and violence” in the area were creating a “fear psychosis” among voters, and ordered campaigning to cease by 10pm last night, a day before it had been scheduled to end.

Normally campaigns run up to 48 hours before polls open, according to Indian law.

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On Tuesday, rival political supporters fought with sticks and rocks during a rally for India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which is trying to wrest seats from Trinamool Congress, a powerful regional party that currently governs West Bengal.

Violence was also reported in the state during last Sunday’s polls.

The commission is invoking for the first time Article 324 of the Indian constitution, which gives it superseding powers over India’s parliament and state politicians to conduct free and fair elections.

“But it may not be the last in cases of repetition of lawlessness and violence,” Chandra Bhushan Kumar, a deputy election commissioner, told reporters.

Nine parliamentary constituencies vote on Sunday in the seventh and last round of India’s staggered, weeks-long national election, which has been highly acrimonious and has featured Prime Minister Narendra Modi blaming opposition parties for the country’s ills.

Both Modi and Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal’s chief minister, were holding last-minute campaign events yesterday.

Fighting to defend her turf, Banerjee thanked a range of opposition parties, including the Congress and Mayawati, for their support.

Several leaders rallied behind her as she attacked the electoral commission’s ruling.