BJP on Thursday expressed “disappointment” over the Election Commission’s stand to go by the Varanasi administration’s decision to deny permission to a rally of Narendra Modi and rejected its endorsement of the reasoning of “security repercussions” given by the Returning Officer.
“We have approached the CEC against the decision but the CEC also dissappointed the people of Varanasi. They also agreed with the decision taken by the local administration,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar told reporters here.
BJP leader Arun Jailey said “BJP does not accept the reasoning of the Returning Officer endorsed by the Election Commission that a rally by Shri Narendra Modi at Beniya Bagh, Varanasi, would have security repercussions.”
“It is dangerous to rely exclusively on the “professional” advice of those who may render unprofessional advice,” he said.
The Election Commission, while defending Varanasi Returning officer Pranjal Yadav, said it relied on the “professional advice” given to it by other bodies.
“For the Election Commission to abdicate its jurisdiction under Article 324 of the Constitution in favour of the judgement of the appointees of the state government would be a failure to exercise jurisdiction,” Jaitley said.
Javadekar alleged the decision of the local administration not to allow Modi rally was done because of political pressure. “The decision of the city administration denying permission for the rally in Varanasi was taken under political pressure,” he said.
The BJP leader said “if there was a security issue, then it was not disclosed yet. Even if there was a security concern, the Election Commission should have given a direction to the city administration to strengthen security in the area. But in democracy not allowing meeting is a blot on democracy.”
Jaitley welcomed the Election Commission re-affirming its independence and commitment towards conducting free and fair elections.
He said permission to hold a rally at Beniya Bagh was in fact granted to BJP on May 7 and revoked as an afterthought and the reason cited in rejecting the permission is not relevant as nothing untoward had happened there at subsequent rallies after the 1991 tension.
He said even in the 2014 election, rallies have been held by Akhilesh Yadav and Arvind Kejriwal at Beniya Bagh.
Jaitley said the requirement of free and fair elections is a level-playing whereby allowing leaders of other political parties to hold rallies and by denying the same right to Modi “violates” the fundamentals of a free and fair election.
BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu earlier said “denying permission to a candidate for campaigning means denying democracy. It is discrimination.”
“They are trying to prevent a candidate from reaching out to the electorate. It is against the constitutional spirit. It is against the democratic spirit. It is against the Code of Conduct prescribed by the Election Commission,” he said.