Zee Media Bureau
Varanasi: Bharatiya Janata Party`s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, who was scheduled to hold two rallies here on Thursday, has been denied permission for one of the rallies by the district authorities. According to reports, the Gujarat Chief Minister has also not been granted permission for participating in `Ganga Aarti` and hold a meeting with 150 prominent Varanasi citizens at a banquet hall in a hotel situated in the holy city.
The administration has reportedly claimed that Modi has been denied permission for Ganga Aarti on the ground that it is already banned for politicians or media to use Ganges ghats for electoral purposes.
Crying foul, the BJP called the move as "unprecedented" and "unheard of" and demanded that the Election Commission remove the electoral officer. The party is also planning to protest in the holy city and Delhi tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the BJP has rejected an alternate venue offered by the EC, saying it was too small.
With the campaign fever soaring ahead of the May 12 vote in the constituency where Modi is in the fray, BJP leader Arun Jaitley today alleged that the district magistrate, who is serving as electoral officer for Varanasi Lok Sabha polls, was making "unbelievable" excuses to "deny" security approval for the rally, which was a right of any candidate.
The BJP said it has written to Chief Election Commissioner Sampath against the local electoral officer and has demanded his removal.
Modi is scheduled to hold a public meeting at Beniya Bagh area here tomorrow evening, after another rally in Rohania, a rural Assembly constituency outside the main Varanasi city but within the Lok Sabha constituency.
Incidentally, both Rohaniya and Beniya Bagh have significant population of Muslim community, whose votes are being targeted by all non-BJP parties while Modi has also said earlier that Muslims of Varanasi would love him when he comes to the city.
However, the Gujarat Chief Minister`s plans to woo locals of the holy city were today marred by the local authorities.
The permission was being held back for Beniya Bagh on the grounds that it was very crowded and unfit for holding rallies, officials said, while adding that the administration had also got certain requests from the general public for not allowing rallies in such areas due to security risks.
Top officials, however, sought to blame the delay in approval to non-receipt of ground report from security agencies and said a final decision could be taken by evening.
They claimed that the request for the rally in Beniya Bagh area here was received yesterday only.
They said that the district administration was waiting for the ground report from the police and local intelligence unit and a final decision on approval for the rally would be taken thereafter.
Terming the situation as "unprecedented", 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. We have written to the CEC and hope the situation to become clear very soon," he said.
When asked whether BJP suspects that UP state government was behind the "denial", Jaitley said, "I do not know who is interfering, but the DM as an electoral officer is free to decide on such things and he is not supposed to come under any kind of pressure.”
"We have written to CEC to seek his removal from here."
ADM (City) MP Singh told reporters that the application which they had received yesterday from BJP for Modi`s rally has been forwarded for getting inputs from local police station and also from local intelligence unit (LIU).
The report from LIU and police have not yet been received to make a final decision for granting permission, he added.
On the issue of Ganga Aarti at ghats, in which Modi was scheduled to participate tomorrow, Singh said that he was not yet aware of this and would only clarify when he receives the final report from LIU and police.
The grant of permission is yet to be finalised for the rally, Singh said.
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said the Varanasi administration was obeying an "unwritten order" and there is an "undeclared understanding" between them and the ruling Samajwadi Party.
She said it was for the first time a candidate was denied permission to hold a rally in his own constituency.
She said though the venue was pre-booked, the payment has not been made yet.
"It is absolutely unacceptable. We are quite surprised," she said.
Varanasi goes to polls on May 12 and the campaigning will end on May 10 evening here.
Modi is pitted against AAP`s Arvind Kejriwal and Congress` Ajay Rai.
(With Agency inputs)