Outgoing Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath (Press Trust of India photo)
Outgoing Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath has defended his decision to go with district authorities in Uttar Pradesh's high-profile Varanasi constituency who had denied permission for a rally by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during Lok Sabha polls last year.
"The question of avoiding does not arise. Election is an exercise in level-playing field. Whatever may be the stature of the persons involved, it is the duty of the Election Commission (EC) to deal with the situation without getting unduly affected by the stature of the personalities," he said as he demitted office on Thursday. Asked whether he had any regrets over the poll panel's decision, he said "No, none."
Mr Sampath was responding to a question on the difficult moments when he declined to intervene in a decision taken by the district authorities in the Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency where Mr Modi was denied permission for a public meeting in a communally-sensitive area in May last.
"When you come across something which has to be dealt with in a certain way, as per law, it has to be done. The EC cannot have a rethink or double think on these matters," he said.
Mr Sampath said whatever was done relating to the public meeting was strictly in accordance with the law and as per the judgement of the people who are entitled to exercise it.
"The EC, unless it has some overriding reasons, will not doubt the decision-making capabilities of the people when they have taken all relevant factors into account like security aspect of the VIP," he explained.