Hours after BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi accused it of being “partisan” and “biased”, the Election Commission on Thursday attempted to re-assert its authority, saying that it was “not afraid of anyone”.
Addressing a press conference here, Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath said, “The commission is not afraid of anyone — any political party or any entity — in discharging its duties.” Flanked by Election Commissioners H S Brahma and Dr Nasim Zaidi, Sampath said political parties should show “greater maturity” while referring to the EC.
While stating that it would probe the BJP’s allegations against Varanasi District Magistrate Pranjal Yadav, the EC said from its inquiries so far, it had “no reason to doubt the sincerity of the officer”.
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Reiterating its status as a constitutional body, the EC deplored “attempts to cast aspersions” on it, saying it had “taken note of certain harsh and sweeping statements” by some parties. “We have taken note of certain statements and utterances made by certain leaders and have expressed our disappointment over the same,” said Sampath, without naming anyone. “We don’t believe in naming anyone in press conferences,” he added.
Asked whether the EC was mulling action against such parties, Sampath said, “In a democratic system like ours, political parties have a right to complain. We will not take action merely because somebody is complaining.” When it was pointed out that in this case, Modi was not complaining but was accusing the EC of being partisan, Sampath said, “We’ll definitely take note of this.”
On charges that the EC was not acting “boldly”, Sampath said “the commission had never flinched in performing its duties with boldness” and cited the ban it imposed on some star campaigners accused of making inflammatory speeches.
Stating that the Varanasi issue was an “unseemly controversy”, Sampath said, “When the security and suitability issues are involved, the EC will naturally go by the professional advice taken at the district level. The competent local authority, the DM and his team took the decision, taking into consideration relevant professional advice on security. There is no reason to deviate from the decision taken at the district level, especially when the issue of life and security are concerned.”
Asserting that the “credibility and neutrality” of the Indian elections was a national heritage, Sampath said he did not think the EC could be blamed for not giving a favourable decision to a political party. “There shall never be a situation where the commission will deviate from neutrality,” he said, adding that any attempts to cast aspersions would cause “long-term damage” to its independence and neutrality.