Under attack from the BJP, Varanasi District Magistrate Pranjal Yadav, who is also the returning officer, said the party was denied permission for Narendra Modi’s rally in Beniya Bagh, a Muslim-dominated congested area, following intelligence reports from the Gujarat Police. He said the BJP had sought permission for five programmes of Modi, all on Thursday, of which four were cleared.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Yadav said: “They sought permission for five programmes. They applied for three of these on May 6, and the remaining two on May 7. While two programmes were granted permission within four hours, the other two were cleared within 24 hours, although the rules say that permission is to be given within 48 hours. The permission for the fifth was denied following intelligence reports, that also carried signatures of Gujarat Police officers, citing security threat.”
On May 6, the BJP sought permission for a rally each in Rohaniya and Beniya Bagh and a programme in Chhoti Cutting Memorial Ground.
The next day, it sought permission for Modi to perform the “Ganga Aarti” and to attend a meeting with prominent citizens at Hotel Surya.
Barring the Beniya Bagh rally, all the other programmes were granted permission.
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In 1991, BJP workers had clashed with Muslims during a party programme at Beniya Bagh. The ground can barely accommodate 25,000 people, while a crowd of not less than 1 lakh people was expected for Modi’s rally. District officials said they had offered the BJP an alternative site, but the party did not agree.
Meanwhile, at his Rohaniya rally on Thursday, Modi alleged that the government had denied him permission for the “Ganga Aarti”. “Unhone mujhe Ganga ma ki god men jaane se mana kar diya (They have refused to let me go to the Ganga),” he claimed.
But senior party leader Arun Jaitley, while accusing the Election Commission of acting unconstitutionally, did not mention the “Ganga Aarti”. The BJP’s official stand was that following denial of permission for the Beniya Bagh rally, the party had decided to cancel all his other programmes except the Rohaniya rally.
Earlier in the day, Jaitley and Amit Shah led a protest march to the Banaras Hindu University. Jaitley accused the SP government and EC of acting in a partisan manner and demanded Yadav’s removal.