Ahead of the Lok Sabha election in Varanasi on May 12, where the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate is pitted among others against the AAP’s chief Arvind Kejriwal, the BJP on Wednesday petitioned to the Election Commission seeking replacement of the district magistrate on the plea that he is acting in a partisan manner as was evident in the denial of permission for a Modi rally in the constituency on May 8.
In a letter to the Election Commission, the Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley listed a litany of grievances against the officer who is serving as the Returning Officer and charged that a ‘free and fair’ election was not possible under his charge.
Mr. Jaitley claimed that the officer has refused go-ahead for the rally citing an Intelligence Bureau (IB) report that the venue is not safe.
As per the scheduled programme, Mr. Modi was to hold a public meeting at Beniya Bagh area in the Temple town on Thursday followed by another rally in Rohania, a rural assembly constituency outside the city but within the Lok Sabha constituency.
Terming the situation as "unprecedented" Mr. Jaitley said, "Holding public meeting in his constituency is right of every candidate and Narendra Modi cannot be denied the same. If the approval is denied on the basis of some back-dated letter or so-called intelligence alerts about security issues, they are only excuses”.
The letter contended that the officer was orally informed on May 5 about the rallies and on his assurances that the locations would be blocked, formal applications were submitted on May 6. It said the officer on May 6 after noon informed that the Veenia Bagh ground has been reserved by an NGO.
“The application of Mr. Khan was ante-dated since the amount for reservation of the Veenia Bagh ground had not been deposited with the Treasury. The Returning Officer put a noting on the application to cover up this anti-dating by stating that he head exempted Mr. Khan from paying the fee for the booking of the ground”, it charged.