As the BJP continued to press for the removal of the Varanasi returning officer over the denial of permission for rallies by Narendra Modi, Election Commissioner H S Brahma on Friday conceded there had been an avoidable delay in conveying the decision to the party.
Brahma said the showdown with the BJP was the result of an “operational issue” that could have been resolved through quick intervention.
“You are entitled to take a decision under law. You have a right and duty to take a decision… the person has a right to know yes or no… It should be communicated in an appropriate time. My only point is that there should be no delay in saying a yes or no,” Brahma said at the Indian Women Press Corps (IWPC) in Delhi.
A candidate has full right to campaign in his constituency, Brahma said. He said the episode was unfortunate, and “should not have escalated” in the way it did. In a high-profile constituency like Varanasi, decisions need to be taken and conveyed promptly, he said.
“…If you take 20 minutes normally, you should, maybe, take 10 minutes or 5 minutes”, Brahma said.
Speaking to Karan Thapar on the ‘To the Point’ programme on Headlines Today, Brahma said he personally felt that there was a “communication gap” between the returning officer and the BJP, and that the former should have explained the reasons for not allowing the programme (in Beniyabagh) “in a professional manner”.
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Brahma confirmed that the denial of permission to hold rallies had to do with information provided by the Gujarat Police. He said that a Gujarat Police officer who was part of Narendra Modi’s advance security liaison team had “indicated” that the rally ground was not a “desirable” place for the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate because it was “highly congested” and “complicated”. The size of the venue was also considered inadequate for a large gathering.
Brahma denied the Election Commission was divided on the matter. “How can we be divided? We are too small, just three people, to be divided on issues,” he said.
The Election Commissioner declined to react to Modi’s attacks on the EC, saying one must be open to criticism. “EC also must be ready to accept if there is a mistake… yes, we will correct it then,” he said.