The Congress on Saturday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi “put pressure” on the Election Commission to delay its press conference to announce poll dates in five states as he was scheduled to address a rally in Rajasthan, a claim rubbished by the poll panel chief.
Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat said in Delhi that the EC does not work under pressure and listed three reasons for the nearly three-hour delay in giving out the schedule.
In Kolkata, senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala accused the prime minister of “putting pressure” on the EC to delay its press conference. He also said the CEC’s explanation is “preposterous” and wondered whether Bharatiya Janata Party is the “super EC”.
The EC was set to hold a press conference at 12.30 pm but had rescheduled it subsequently to 3.00 pm.
The five states where assembly polls will be held in November-December are Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Telangana.
“There is no pressure... EC does not work under pressure... if someone thinks concessions have been made, they are free to complain,” Rawat told reporters in New Delhi.
On shifting of the press conference’s timing, the CEC listed three reasons -- last-minute assessment of timeline for publication of Telangana electoral rolls, a high court direction that Telangana electoral rolls be shown to it before final publication and request from a state to delay bypolls due to possibility of bad weather.
Responding to a series of questions on Congress’s accusation regarding postponing of the press conference, Rawat said, “Politicians are political creatures and they have to see politics in everything. We have no comments.”
He explained that the electoral rolls being punched into the system was proving to be a problem in Telangana and the engineers from C-DAC were on the spot to help personnel using the system.
Now, the final publication of electoral roll will be made on October 12 instead of October 8.
He said keeping in mind the delay in publication of electoral rolls, Telangana polls have been kept at the “fag end” of the schedule so that preparations are not affected.
Telangana and Rajasthan will have elections in a single phase on December 7.
He said EC officials will visit Telangana and Mizoram in the coming days, though usually such visits take place before announcement of poll schedule. Rawat said EC’s team of officials had already been to the state and the poll panel was satisfied that elections can be held there.
However, Surjewala was not impressed with the CEC’s reply.
“The EC’s explanation for the delay is preposterous. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is guilty of pressuring the EC to delay its press conference as he was scheduled to address a rally. The EC was made to wait for Modi’s rally,” he told reporters.
The prime minister addressed a public rally at Ajmer.
Surjewala also said that the EC had done a similar thing while announcing poll dates for Gujarat last year.
“But both the BJP and the EC should remember that such tactics won’t bear any results and the people of Rajasthan and India won’t give in to any sort of allurement as they have made up their mind against the anti-people BJP government,” he said.
“In Gujarat, BJP IT cell tweeted the election dates even before ECI. ECI delinked Gujarat elections from Himachal to enable PM Modi to make a slew of announcements. ECI again deferred PC to enable PM Modi to do the same in Rajasthan. Is BJP the Super EC?” Surjewala later said in a tweet.
He said the people of the country are under attack from their own government and the economy is in doldrums with the rupee sliding every day.
On who will be the prime minister after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, he said “the people will decide”.
“But it will be a people’s government and not be at war with the people,” he said.
The Modi government has declared war on the people of this country and the present regime has to be defeated in the next elections, he added.