Maintaining that holding assembly elections in Bihar was 'challenging', Chief Election Commissioner B B Tandon on Sunday came out in strong defence of EC Adviser K J Rao, who has been under attack from Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal in the wake of his tough handling of poll irregularities.
"To hold elections in a peaceful, free and fair manner in Bihar is a very difficult task. It was a challenge," a visibly relaxed Tandon told PTI a day after the conclusion of the month-long elections in the state. The EC was 'satisfied' with its performance and the 'credit goes to the people of the state', he said.
RJD leader Prem Chand Gupta and senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh had recently met the EC to protest certain remarks of Rao.
"Rao, who was a member of two-member team of special observers in Bihar, has done commendable work. People, candidates and even the press appreciated his work. The EC is satisfied with his work," Tandon said.
The CEC said the feedback received by the EC showed that Rao performed his duties 'very impartially' and in a 'fair manner'. Wherever action was required, it was taken against all those who were found to be violating the law or the model code of conduct, he said.
To a question on what type of difficulties the poll panel had encountered during the elections, Tandon said, "the biggest among the many difficulties was to ensure security and to tackle Naxals but non-bailable warrants were not executed".
On the counting of votes on November 23, Tandon said foolproof security arrangements are being made and cameras would be deployed at the counting process.
Elaborating on measures taken to conduct free and fair polls in Bihar, Tandon said nearly 1.5 lakh non-bailable warrants were executed in the last three months, 2,200 arms and 10,000 ammunition recovered ahead of the polls.
Defending the staggered four-phase elections, he said it was necessitated because of effective deployment of central paramilitary forces in every polling booth and because of the festivals. The people had voted without any intimidation and this was hailed by political parties and the media, he said.
Replying to a question on the Jehanabad jailbreak incident by Naxalites, he said that to remark that the attack was facilitated because EC had taken away forces from Jehanabad was not right. In fact, he said, EC had left some forces in Jehanabad where the polling was over in the first phase.