The Election Commission on Monday made it clear it was not biased against the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Rajya Sabha member, Mayawati, saying poll officials in Karnataka were trying to ensure a level playing field for every candidate.

Replying to Ms. Mayawati daring the Commission to check the baggage of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, a senior EC official told The Hindu: “Ms. Gandhi comes under the exempted category of persons from security point of view and she is protected by the Special Protection Group. Laws and rules relating to exempted categories, which apply for other agencies, will apply to the EC also.”

Ms. Mayawati’s bag was checked as she landed at the Jewargi town helipad on Saturday for campaigning, and she was found carrying Rs. 1 lakh. The EC gave her the benefit of the doubt and accepted her statement that Rs. 50,000 belonged to her and the rest to a party official.

The BSP chief then accused the EC of targeting her for being a “Dalit woman.” “People at the helm of affairs cannot tolerate a Dalit woman rising to this position in public life and travelling in aircraft and helicopters. How many times did these officials check the bags of Ms. Gandhi and Ms. Swaraj [BJP leader]? Why are rules and regulations limited only to me?”

To buttress his point that the Commission was impartial in frisking/checking political leaders during polls, the official, on condition of anonymity, said there was a long list of persons whose baggage was checked by EC officials, including the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha (Sushma Swaraj herself welcomed the move in a tweet), Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar of the BJP, and the former Karnataka Chief Minister, Dharam Singh of the Congress.

Asked why her bag was examined for a second time within minutes of the first checking, the official said the cash was not counted in the first instance. “So we wanted to count the cash. However by the time she reached the place of election meeting, the cash was not there in her possession.” He said officials monitoring election expenditure, going by past experience, kept a watch on those travelling by helicopters during campaign. He recalled the seizure of Rs.1 crore in cash each from the baggage of the then Home Minister of Nagaland and a candidate during the recent Assembly elections.

More In: National | News | Karnataka