M A I N   N E W S

EC rebuts BJP charge, says it’s not afraid of anybody
Justifies Varanasi DM’s refusal to grant permission for Modi rally
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 8
The Election Commission today justified its decision to deny permission to BJP prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi’s rally in Varanasi and asked leaders to “behave maturely”. In the same vein, the poll panel asserted that it was “not afraid” of any political party and was committed to ensuring free and fair elections.

Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath, addressing a rare mid-election press conference, responded to allegations made by the BJP, which had dubbed the commission “partisan and timid”.

The BJP had sought the removal of the District Magistrate of Varanasi, from where Modi is a candidate. The constituency goes to the polls on May 12 as part of the last leg of the general election.

The CEC dubbed the BJP comments over its functioning “harsh and sweeping”.

Sampath said the District Magistrate (DM) had denied permission for today’s rally on the “basis of professional advice” and there was no need to “deviate” from it.

“When the security and suitability issues are involved, the Election Commission naturally will go by the professional advice taken at the district level,” said the CEC, flanked by other two Election Commissioners. He defended DM Pranjal Yadav saying: “The DM and his team took the decision taking into consideration relevant professional advice on security.”

Authorities had denied permission to hold a Modi rally in the Beniyabagh area, which has a sizeable Muslim population and history of law and order problem. During the 1991 elections (when the Babri Masjid demolition campaign was at its peak), a riot-like situation had posed a tough challenge for the administration at a rally by BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha. The CEC asked political parties to “show greater maturity” and added that the Election Commission was not afraid of anyone or “any political party” or “any entity” in discharging its duties.

“The EC is a body created under the Constitution and one of the pillars of democracy. The Constitution has given enough power to the commission to perform its duties boldly and impartially,” the CEC said.

Sampath said the job of the Election Commission is “challenging” in enforcing the electoral law judiciously, rigorously and in a non-partisan manner. Dismissing the allegations of the “lack of neutrality” (levelled by Modi today), he said: “The EC has satisfaction in the job it has been doing and we will continue to do so to uphold the Constitution. The credibility, neutrality and impartiality of the EC is a national heritage.”

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