Setting the bar for political parties to follow, the Election Commission ceased all its campaigning activities for Congress at 6 PM on May 12, thus bringing down the curtains on the 2014 Lok Sabha polling exercise. In an exclusive free-wheeling interview, we talk to the man behind it all, CEC Sampath.
Reporter: Good day Mr. Sampath. The last few days must have been stressful.
Sampath: Absolutely! Let me give you an anecdote: it was May 15th morning. Anxiety was writ large on the faces of Varanasi poll officials. We had made all the preparations for an Abottabad-style pre-dawn raid on BJP offices. A SWAT team had trained using a specially built replica of the office. But even the best laid plans come apart during first contact with the enemy. BJP had already donated the liquor bottles to some ragpicker & all we could salvage were some pamphlets. But I am proud of my boys! My heart goes out to the Returning Officer Pranjal Yadav whose career was critically wounded in this operation.
Reporter: We are amazed at how you are able to file FIRs against BJP politicians so quickly? Sampath: They don’t call me See! Easy for nothing.
Reporter: What was the reason for cancellation of Modi’s Varanasi rally? Sampath: It was done for security reasons. There was a threat perception. I perceived a threat to my well-being if I disobeyed orders.
Reporter: What about your threat to disqualify Smriti Irani? Sampath: The Election Commission enforces a 75 Lakh limit on election expenses. She is suspected of exceeding that & that’s why she is under the scanner.
Reporter: Then why is the EC silent on the case of 50 Lakh disenfranchised voters in Maharashtra? Sampath: Because 50 Lakhs is less than the 75 Lakh limit.
Reporter: Let’s talk about malfunctioning EVMs in Pune. Sampath: It’s a disgrace! Normally, the EVMs are supposed to vote for Congress but not show it to the voter. When we heard about this issue, we contacted BEL, the manufacturer, immediately. They admitted that they had accidentally sent a demo version to us, which had a bug in the Trojan program. We had them replace it for free under the 1 year warranty. I can assure you that the rest of the Trojan EVMs don’t have this bug. Rahul has personally quality tested them.
Reporter: Talking about Rahul, what do you make of his 22000 people will be killed under Modi remark? Sampath: We don’t take this kind of idle talk lightly. A show cause notice has been issued, giving him 3 days to reply why he didn’t quote the exact number of 22786.
Reporter: Who is your role model? Sampath: Former CEC Navin Chawla, without a doubt! I still remember his advice to me when I was new to the job, “Work ethic is all-important in this business. The call of duty is more important than nature’s call“.
Reporter: So, what’s next for you? Sampath: A CEC might be finished, but his work doesn’t end. A lot remains to be done: voting, vetoing, counting, rounding, reporting etc. But I have a message for you mediawallahs, who are happily projecting seats: a CEC is the only person who can predict the exit polls even before the elections begin!