Varanasi, 8 May-2014,Uday Pratap Dwiwedi(PTI): The Election Commission has expressed “surprise” and “disappointment” over the Bharatiya Janata Party’s decision to hold protests against denial of permission to its prime ministerial pick Narendra Modi for a rally in Varanasi’s Beniyabagh area on Thursday.
BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi waves to supporters as he arrives in an open vehicle to file his nomination in Varanasi. (AP photo)
BJP leaders Arun Jaitley, Amit Shah and state party chief Laxmikant Bajpai reached Banaras Hindu University.
BJP workers on Thursday took to roads in Varanasi and protested the Election Commission’s decision to deny Modi permission to hold rallies in the city. Security has been tightened as thousands of people gather at the BHU gate.
Hours ahead of his “protest” roadshow in Varanasi, Narendra Modi tweeted on Thursday, “It is unfortunate that EC is not concerned about the institution’s neutrality & that is why our Karyakartas have to embark on a Satyagraha.”
He also appealed to his party workers to maintain peace: “I appeal to my Karyakarta sisters & brothers to maintain peace & ensure that people do not face any difficulty.”
He also tweeted: “My profound apologies to Ganga Maa for not being able to perform Aarti today. Wish these people know that a Mother’s love is above politics.”
Modi is contesting from the seat, which goes to polls on May 12. The BJP had written to chief election commissioner VS Sampath and demanded the removal of the electoral officer, district magistrate Pranjal Yadav.
In a letter to senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley on Wednesday, the EC said the protests were announced despite the poll body trying to resolve the matter “in accordance with law and the ground situation”.
Principal secretary in the EC, RK Srivastava, said while earlier a BJP representative Vidyasagar Rai had requested for an alternative site on May 6, Jaitley later urged the returning officer not to process the permission.
“In the whole matter, the Commission decided not to go by the version conveyed by the district magistrate alone, but consulted the UP chief secretary and the DGP, who endorsed the security and suitability aspects including capacity of the ground, raised by the district officials.
“You will appreciate that the Commission cannot overlook the security concerns expressed by competent authorities,” the letter said.
The letter said the Commission has given prompt attention to any issue raised by political parties, including BJP, over the ongoing elections.
Read: BJP denied permission for Modi rally in Varanasi; party leaders to sit on dharna today
“Hence the Commission is surprised and disappointed that your party has chosen to hold protests over the matter, which was being sought to be resolved in accordance with law and ground realities,” it said.
Accusing the EC of being a “mute spectator” to returning officer Yadav’s “highly partisan” role in denying permission for the rally on Thursday, the BJP had demanded his immediate removal.
In a strong rebuttal, the EC said it did not accept any “insinuation or inaction” in this regard and would take action against the officer if he was found guilty of “partisan” behaviour.
“The commission is getting all facts about Varanasi and will do everything under the law and its mandate to conduct free and fair polls,” it said in a rare statement.
Jaitley had also announced he and other senior leaders would sit on a dharna outside the Banaras Hindu University at 11am on Thursday in protest. The BJP leaders will also protest outside the EC office in New Delhi.
Jaitley said the district magistrate was making “unbelievable” excuses to “deny” security approval for the rally, which was a right of any candidate.
“The returning officer has lied… This is not a banana republic. I have written three letters to the EC. We will hold protests at Lanka Gate outside BHU,” Jaitley said.
The DM, however, late on Wednesday allowed Modi to attend a ‘Ganga pujan’ ceremony at the Dashashwamedh Ghat in the temple town.
Yadav also approved Modi’s meeting at Surya Hotel with 150 eminent persons of the society and a public meeting at the Chota Cutting memorial ground.
Read: Rahul Gandhi will campaign in Varanasi, hold roadshow on May 10
Modi’s close aide and the BJP’s UP in-charge Amit Shah, in press conference late on Wednesday, said the permission came too late and the BJP PM nominee’s ‘pujan’ and rally plan remained cancelled as the party could not make preparations.
Shah also said the protests would go on as planned.
The BJP leadership is planning to convert Modi’s journey from the Banaras Hindu University – at the helipad of which he would land – to the party’s central election office at Sigra into a roadshow of sorts on Thursday.
Modi would reach the BHU after addressing a rally at Jagat Inter College, Rohaniya, a rural assembly segment of Varanasi.
The Rohaniya rally has been allowed while permission for the rally at Beniyabagh ground has been denied.
Top officials sought to blame the permission issue to non-receipt of ground report from security agencies and said a final decision could be taken by evening. They claimed the request for the rally at the Beniyabagh ground was received on Tuesday.
Terming the situation as “unprecedented”, Jaitley said, “Holding public meeting in his constituency is right of every candidate and Narendra Modi cannot be denied the same.
Read: In Varanasi, it’s urban Modi versus rural Kejriwal
“If the approval is denied on the basis of some backdated letter or so-called intelligence alerts about security issues, they are only excuses. We have written to the CEC and hope the situation to become clear very soon.”
Asked if the BJP suspected that the Uttar Pradesh government was behind the “denial”, Jaitley said, “I do not know who is interfering, but the DM as an electoral officer is free to decide on such things and not supposed to come under any kind of pressure.”
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said the Varanasi administration was obeying an “unwritten order” and there was an “undeclared understanding” between them and the ruling Samajwadi Party.
Thursday’s dharna would be yet another example of the BJP turning an adverse situation to its advantage.
(Source PTI inputs)