Quashing allegations of bias levelled upon it by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Election Commission on Thursday assured the nation that the 2014 General Elections were being held in a strict non-partisan manner.
Talking to scribes here, Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath said, “We want to reassure the nation that election management is being done properly.”
Sampath said that despite the Herculean task at its hand, the EC has strictly enforced the model code of conduct and set the stage for ‘one of the cleanest contests ever.’
Despite that the EC has been accused of bias, Sampath said, “Many statements by party spokespersons have questioned the neutrality of the EC.”
Prising the scribes about the allegations levied by the BJP, Sampath averred, “The BJP delegation met us this morning and was conducted in a very cordial manner.” The Chief Election Commissioner added that he was disappointed that a national party should embark on a protest against the EC.
The CEC also said that it had asked for a factual report on Rahul Gandhi visiting the EVM enclosure and action would be taken based on the report.
Sampath sternly asked political leaders to use proper discourse while referring to constitutional body like the EC in future and added that he was aware that the refusal of permission for BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi’s Varanasi rally has become a bone of contention.
Informing about the reason behind such a move, Sampath said, “Competent local authorities, for security reasons, were unable to give permission for (Modi’s) public meeting in Beniyabagh.”
“Where security issues are involved, the EC goes by expertise given by local administration,” he added.
Addressing the parties, Sampath quipped, “Political parties must understand that issues relating to permission for campaign purposes should be asked with due notice.” And added that the EC was not ‘scared of anyone — any political parties or entity.’
“The commission is not afraid of any party or entity in discharging its duty,” he summed up saying.
Earlier in the day, BJP leader Arun Jaitley had expressed “disappointment” with the EC stand on Narendra Modi’s rally in Varanasi and said that polls should not be conducted in the country if security cannot be ensured.
“By condoning the returning officer’s stand on ‘No-Modi rally’ in Varanasi city, the Election Commission has used the security card to prevent Narendra Modi’s right to campaign in his constituency. If you can’t ensure security, don’t hold the polls in the country,” Jaitley wrote in his blog.
His comments follow the poll panel denying permission to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial nominee to hold rallies in Varanasi, stating security concerns.
“I cannot conceal my disappointment with the Election Commission. Men in constitutional offices need to be bolder. Timid men can dwarf high offices,” Jaitley added.
He, however, added that if polls are held, a “level playing field” should be provided.
“But if you do hold the polls please provide a level playing field. You cannot deny the candidate the right to campaign. Rahul Gandhi can have a road show in Varanasi but Narendra Modi cannot have a rally. The security card is selectively used,” he said.
Jaitley added that his right to “satyragraha” (protest for the truth) begins if the poll panel chooses to believe the returning officer and “feels that this is not a denial of opportunity to campaign”.
Giving out advice to the Election Commission, Jaitley said: “Don’t look helpless. Don’t merely rely on the returning officer and officials of the Uttar Pradesh government. They are a nominees of the people who want to prevent Modi. There is more to a campaign than a prayer and meeting 150 people.”
The EC in its letter had said matters like granting permission for rallies, meetings are dealt with at the level of district magistrate/returning officer and not directly by the poll panel.