Denied permission to hold a Narendra Modi rally in Varanasi, the BJP escalated its fight with the Election Commission on Thursday, launching a scathing attack on the poll panel amid a massive show of strength. Though the permission to hold events, other than a rally, came late on Wednesday, the BJP went ahead with the protest to derive maximum benefit as the holy city goes to polls on May 12. The Election Commission, however, defended its action and said it was not afraid of any party or entity. “Request leaders to use proper discourse while referring to Constitutional body like EC,” Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath said.
After day-long protests in Varanasi, from where he is contesting, and New Delhi, Modi drove 6 km in his car from the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) helipad to the party office with his supporters out in full strength. In a repeat of his show of strength as he did on the day of filing his nomination, Modi’s cavalcade that started at 6 pm took over five hours to cover the distance as party men lined both sides of the road. The road show could be his only public event in Varanasi before campaigning ends on May 10.
Leading the charge against the Election Commission, Modi said there was match-fixing by the mother-son (Sonia-Rahul) government. Earlier in the day he tweeted, “Unfortunate that EC is not concerned about the institution’s neutrality & that is why our Karyakartas (cadre) have to embark on a Satyagraha... 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.” His tweets set the tone for the protests.
Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley accompanied by party general secretaries Ananth Kumar and Amit Shah held a sit-in outside the BHU, while Venkaiah Naidu along with Ravi Shankar Prasad, Harshvardhan and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi protested outside the EC office in Delhi. The Delhi police imposed Section 144 to disperse the crowds.
Jaitley alleged that by condoning the Returning Officer’s stand on ‘No-Modi rally’ in Varanasi, the EC played the security card to prevent the BJP PM candidate’s right to campaign in his constituency. “Rahul Gandhi can have a road show in Varanasi but Narendra Modi cannot have a rally. The security card is selectively used,” he said. “If you can’t ensure security, don’t hold polls in the country,” Jaitley added.
Even before top BJP leaders arrived in Varanasi for the dharna, party workers and local leaders had begun protesting from early in the morning, disrupting traffic. The protestors shouted slogans for the removal of District Magistrate Pranjal Yadav, who is also serving as Returning Officer for the polls scheduled on May 12. In Delhi, BJP leaders submitted a memorandum to the EC saying there was a political bias and discrimination against the party. “This has tarnished the image of the EC. By holding this march for justice, the BJP has lodged its strong resentment to the EC not acting in a transparent, impartial manner,” the memorandum said.