Outgoing Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami has said that the tapes of Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Varun Gandhi were 'definitely not doctored' and the hate content of his speeches was 'more virulent' than what was aired.
In an interview to different television news channels, ahead of stepping down as poll panel head on April 20, Gopalaswami defended the commission's action against the BJP's Pilibhit candidate as it felt that a 'strong message' had to be sent over the incident.
"We had watched the entire tape (of the speeches)... it was more virulent," he said.
"We felt very strongly. The virulence was such that we had to go beyond what we had set as our limit...," he said.
To a question on whether the commission felt the tapes were doctored, as Varun Gandhi has been claiming, Gopalaswami said: "The tapes were definitely not doctored."
"We felt a strong message must go (in the Varun Gandhi case)," he said, adding that the three-member panel was 'absolutely unanimous' on the matter of the action taken. The Election Commission had issued a notice to Varun Gandhi and the BJP over the speeches and also issued an advisory to the party asking it not to field him as candidate.
Gopalaswami defended the commission's advisory to the BJP, saying: "Issuing an advisory is the duty of the commission. We conveyed our displeasure."
Varun Gandhi was arrested on March 28 and slapped with charges under the National Security Act by the Uttar Pradesh government for the campaign speeches vilifying Muslims purportedly delivered by him. He was released from Etah jail in Uttar Pradesh on Thursday after being granted a two-week parole by the apex court.
Gopalaswami did not elaborate on his row with Election Commissioner Navin Chawla, who is to succeed him, saying there was "no more discussion at any level" on the issue.
He also wished Chawla well for conducting the 2009 general elections.
On the rise in the number of poll code violations, he said that more cases were being detected due to the many television news channels.
"The number of television channels has increased. We also go for video tracking (the speeches and activities of the candidates and politicians)," Gopalaswami said.
He admitted that the commission had failed to tackle the problem of money power in the elections.