NAGPUR, Maharashtra: The Congress on Saturday alleged that the Election Commission of India's (ECI's) press conference on Saturday, held to announce the poll schedule of five states, was deliberately delayed by two-and-a-half hours to avoid clashing with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rally in Rajasthan in the afternoon.
Congress spokesperson Randip Surjewala tweeted this after the poll body abruptly changed the timing of its press conference from 12.30 pm to 3 pm.
Chief Election Commissioner O.P.Rawat, however, refuted the Congress's allegations and claimed that the poll body faces no pressure of any kind.
Rawat began the press conference in New Delhi by apologising to reporters for the abrupt change in time and said that "certain compulsions" forced the ECI to delay the press conference.
"This was necessitated because of certain compulsions. One of the states had to publish electoral rolls on October 8 but this morning it emerged that it will take time. A case was also pending before the high court regarding electoral rolls and the court had ordered that the rolls be shown to the court before publishing it. A chief secretary of a state requested me not to announce by-elections for his state due to some forecasts. All these issues compelled us (to delay the press conference) and there had been speculations and political statements also. I just have to say that politicians and political parties are political creatures, and they have to see politics in everything because of their inherent nature. We have no comments to make on that," Rawat told reporters.
When asked if he had given an opportunity to the opposition to raise questions by delaying the press conference, Ravat reiterated that the delay was due to "some reasons".
"It is the compulsion of the commission to conduct free and fair elections," he added.
Surjewala, however, tweeted that the ECI had allowed Modi to complete his rally before the model code of conduct came into place.
The ECI has announced that elections to the five states will be held in four phases in November and December and the election results will be declared on 11 December. While Chhattisgarh will vote in two phases on 12 November and 20 November, elections in Mizoram and Madhya Pradesh will be held on 28 November. Rajasthan and Telangana will vote on 7 December.