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Glare on DM for delay, not denial

New Delhi, May 9: Election commissioner H.S. Brahma today appeared to fault Varanasi district magistrate Pranjal Yadav for not taking a “prompt” decision on the venue for Narendra Modi’s rally but defended his denial of permission on security grounds.

“Delay should have been avoided. Yes or no should have been said promptly,” Brahma said. Yadav was right in denying permission for the meeting as police had raised security concerns, Brahma said, but added the “delay” in the response became “problematic”.

Brahma claimed a Gujarat officer had also expressed security concerns over Benia Bagh, the venue the BJP had sought for Modi’s rally, as it was in a congested area. “A senior Gujarat police officer had said that the venue of the meeting was not desirable on security grounds.”

Brahma’s views appeared at odds with those of chief election commissioner V.S. Sampath, who had strongly defended the DM for denying permission to hold the event in the minority-dominated pocket. “We have no reason to doubt the credibility and sincerity of the district magistrate,” Sampath had said yesterday.

Brahma, though, denied there was a difference of opinion between the election commissioners. “No, no…there is no difference of opinion.”

Brahma made another assertion that sent conflicting signals. He declared categorically that exit poll telecasts would not be allowed before counting day on May 16. “No exit polls would be allowed before May 16. The law does not allow it and if needed, the EC would issue a notification in this regard.”

Within hours, the commission clarified that exit polls could be beamed half-an-hour after the close of voting in final phase on May 12.

Special observer

Tamil Nadu chief electoral officer Praveen Kumar is being sent as a special observer to Varanasi, the move coming in the wake of the BJP’s charges of bias against DM Yadav, according to PTI. The panel, however, rejected the BJP’s demand to replace Yadav, saying “as of today, we do not find the action fault-worthy”.