BJP protests in Varanasi against Election Commission

Varanasi, May 8 (IANS) Thousands of BJP activists protested here Thursday against the Election Commission's decision to cancel its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's rallies. The party later said one of two rallies will be held following an eleventh hour green signal.

Watched by around 20,000 police and paramilitary personnel, Bharatiya Janata Party workers shouted slogans outside one of the gates of the Banaras Hindu University and outside the district magistrate's office.

The protests were peaceful.

The BJP said that after first saying no, the Election Commission, on the recommendation of the Varanasi authorities, agreed to let Modi address one of the rallies and meet a group of intellectuals in a hotel.

The Gujarat chief minister -- who is the BJP candidate from Varanasi in the Lok Sabha election due Monday -- was also allowed to take part in the 'Ganga Arti' on the banks of the holy river.

The venue of the election rally for which permission was granted late Wednesday is Rohaniya, on the outskirts of Varanasi city. The BJP said the programme will take place.

BJP general secretary Amit Shah said as the approvals came too late, they had no time to prepare for the other events besides the Rohaniya rally. So the other three progammes had been spiked.

Modi will fly into Varanasi from elsewhere in Uttar Pradesh. He will take a helicopter to reach the Rohaniya rally venue.

He will then drive through Varanasi city to go to the BJP office to meet party workers.

Earlier, Modi tweeted that he was sad that he had not been allowed to take part in the 'Ganga Aarti' at Assi Ghat.

He appealed to his party supporters to remain calm.

BJP activists led by their leader in Delhi, Harsh Vardhan, marched to the Election Commission headquarters in the national capital shouting slogans.

BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad accused the Election Commission of "deliberate bias" and said the decision was aimed at "frustrating" Modi's election campaign.

Harsh Vardhan added: "The EC has not been able to maintain its prestige... Their attitude is neither objective nor sincere."