As the marathon election process inched towards its final leg, the stage was set for a massive showdown between the BJP and the Election Commission over “denial” of permission to hold Narendra Modi’s rallies in his parliamentary constituency Varanasi.
Alleging that the Returning Officer who denied permission for three events was “biased”, while the Election Commission was a “mute spectator” to its complaints, the party went on an offensive saying it would hold protests.
The BJP also said it will repeat Modi’s massive show of strength like he did on the day of his nomination.
Though the district administration gave permission for other events barring a rally, the party rejected this and said it has come to too late as they would not be able to advertise their event.
Now, Modi would travel in his car from the helipad at Banaras Hindu University at 4.30 pm on Thursday and pass through some of the busiest areas of the city to meet his supporters at his election office. Modi drive through the city has been planned as Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi would hold his roadshow on May 10 when the election campaign for the last phase would end.
The BJP is all set to turn the denial of permission into a huge political issue by making Modi show his might in the Lok Sabha seat which holds the key to his prime ministerial dreams.
Unlike a roadshow, Modi’s drive through the city would require no such permission. BJP has asked its cadres to welcome Modi’s cavalcade en route and make his outing in the city a show of strength.
Modi’s other programmes in the constituency has not been announced, so, his drive could be his last event in the city.
The saffron party launched a scathing attack on not only the Returning Officer but also on the Election Commission for not taking any action against the “biased” official. The party will hold also protests in Varanasi and Delhi on Thursday against the Election Commission. The BJP had planned three events in the holy city — a public rally in Beniya Bagh, Ganga Aarti and a meeting with 150 prominent citizens of Benaras. The party said permission was denied for all the three events citing various reasons ranging from booked venues to security alerts by the Intelligence Bureau.
Modi, however, will go ahead with his scheduled public rally in Rohinya.
“This is not banana republic that a Prime Ministerial candidate is not allowed to hold a rally in his own constituency,” senior BJP leader and party’s Lok Sabha candidate from Amritsar, Arun Jaitley said in Varanasi.
The party argued that Returning Officer Pranjal Yadav was acting under pressure from political powers and the Election Commission proved ineffective in taking action against him.
After the party approached the Election Commission against Yadav and did not receive any favourable response, it launched a severe attack on the poll panel.
“When weak people sit in high positions, democracy is under threat,” Jaitley said alluding to the Election Commission and adding that the party was unhappy by the panel’s response.
The Election Commission was quick to dismiss the BJP’s charge.
“The Commission is getting all the facts about developments in Varanasi...It does not accept insinuation of inaction or bias in this regard. As in all matters, the Commission will act correctly while facilitating legitimate campaigning by all political parties,” Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi said in Delhi.
On a day of many developments, BJP sent four letters one after the other to the Election Commission.
Jaitely even called up CEC V S Sampath, while its spokespersons held fort in Delhi.
At 6 pm, Jaitley held a press conference in
Varanasi attacking both the EC and Returning Officer.
Two hours later, the party declared it was dropping all the programmes of Narendra Modi.
Instead, he will drive through the city.
At 10 pm, Yadav too held a press conference where he said all permissions to hold rallies were given to the party.
BJP general secretary and Uttar Pradesh affairs in-charge Amit Shah held another press meet at 11 pm daring Yadav to reveal the intelligence bureau report that said there was a security threat because of Modi’s rally.
Shah accused Yadav of acting at the behest of some political masters.