‘Poll panel not afraid of any political party’
Sampath’s blistering attack came after senior BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi slammed EC for being partial in conducting polls. Late on Wednesday night, EC has replied to Jaitley’s letter and on Thursday it held an official press conference justifying its stand on denial of permission to Modi.
Sampath’s retort came after Modi, at an election rally in Azamgarh on Thursday, said: ‘I say this with full responsibility, the EC is acting in a partisan manner and has failed to do its job. I don’t know what made EC stop me. Will the world end if I don’t deliver a speech? My silence is more powerful than my words. The people who are against me have done match fixing leading to the EC denying permission to me.’
‘In last three phases of elections, EC has failed miserably in discharging its responsibilities. I am accusing the EC of not being impartial. I had warned you (EC) on 24 April that you are not discharging your responsibility well,’ Modi said, while alleging that rigging was reported at several places during polling in UP, Bihar and West Bengal.
The CEC in rebuttal said, ‘It is disappointing that questions are being raised over the commission’s impartiality, jurisdiction. We are not afraid of any political party or entity in discharging our duty. We request leaders to use proper discourse while referring to a constitutional body like EC.’ While replaying to Jaitley’s Facebook post where he wrote, ‘Men in constitutional offices need to be bolder. Timid men can dwarf high offices,’ Sampath said: ‘Any reference to boldness, we would like to point out that the commission is not afraid of anyone or anything. I took exception to allegations of boldness. It’s a constitutional body with the powers to fulfill its obligations boldly and fairly.’
Sampath, a 1973 batch IAS officer while stressing that all political leaders are equal to them, said, ‘You might have noticed that the commission has also banned star campaigners and candidates who were accused of making hate speeches.’ He said, ‘Where security issues are involved, EC goes by expert advise given by local administration. I would like to request parties to act in a more mature way. We request leaders to use proper discourse while referring to constitutional body like EC.’
Jaitley claimed that the BJP does not accept the reasoning of the Returning Officer endorsed by the EC that a rally by Modi at Beniya Bagh, Varanasi, would have security repercussions.
He said, ‘If you (EC) can’t ensure safety, then don’t hold polls.’ Earlier in the day Modi in his tweets offered ‘profound apologies’ to river Ganga for not being able to perform ‘arti’ after being denied permission by the EC.
Meanwhile, in Varanasi, party leaders including Jaitley and Modi’s close aide Amit Shah sat on a ‘satyagraha’ against the EC and the district magistrate. In Delhi, Section 144 of the CrPC restricting gathering of people was imposed ahead of the protest by BJP workers. Party activists were prevented from going towards the Election Commission office. Later, a delegation of party leaders led by M Venkaiah Naidu and Ravi Shankar Prasad met officials of the EC over the refusal of permission.