BJP targets poll panel after permission denied for rally

BJP targets poll panel after permission denied for rally

Protests staged in Varanasi and Delhi against the EC

By Sonny Abraham

Published: Fri 9 May 2014, 10:22 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 5:51 PM

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reacted angrily after district authorities in Varanasi denied its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi permission to hold a rally and a roadshow and staged protests in the ancient city on the banks of the Ganga as well as in the national capital on Thursday.

Modi, 63, is the BJP’s nominee for the Varanasi Lok Sabha and the BJP had alleged that the denial of permissions to him to hold meetings in the city virtually amounted to a ban on him from entering his own constituency.

The episode has led to a showdown between the BJP and the district administration, whom it accused of bias, and between it and the Election Commission (EC), whom it charged with inaction in the matter.

While senior BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Amit Shah led thousands of party workers in holding a demonstration outside the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in Varanasi for a few hours before the arrival of Modi in the city, other leaders like Ravi Shankar Prasad led the protest outside the EC headquarters in Delhi. The EC said it was “surprised and disappointed” that the BJP had chosen to hold protests over the issue.

Late on Wednesday night, Varanasi District Magistrate and Returning Officer Pranjal Yadav told reporters that the district administration had allowed the BJP to hold four of the five events it had proposed. These included prayers at the “ghats” of the Ganga, and a meeting with about 150 leading citizens in a hotel.

But Modi was denied permission for the main event — a rally in the Beniyabagh area of the city on Thursday, mainly on grounds of difficulties in arranging security for him in a crowded part of the city and managing the huge crowds expected to attend the rally. But by then the BJP had angrily withdrawn its requests for permissions for various events and announced its plans to hold protests, instead.

The BJP was particularly angry because the Varanasi authorities had given permission for an election rally by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on May 10 — the last day of campaigning in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections — and had earlier allowed Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal to hold meetings at Beniyabagh.

On his arrival at Rohaniya on the outskirts of Varanasi, Modi told the crowd that he had only a single-word message: progress. “I have no other agenda”.

He ridiculed the administration for not giving him permission to address a meeting in Varanasi and for not being able to organise security for him.

“For the people of Varanasi region, Modi is not just a candidate. He is joined to you from the heart,” he said.

Among other things, Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat since late 2001, said that he would ensure that the Ganga, considered a holy river in India, would be cleaned up, just the way he had been able to get the Sabarmati cleaned in Ahmedabad, the main city of his state.

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