CSM Nagar (Amethi): A controversy broke out on Tuesday over the transfer of a poll observer, an IAS officer, who allegedly ordered the stopping of a motorcycle rally of Congress campaigner and Priyanka Gandhi's husband Robert Vadra on the charge of violating the model code of conduct.

Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi, however, maintained the transfer of Pawan Sen, IAS officer of 2005 batch, was not linked to the incident and his shift to Goa, which too goes to Assembly poll, has been put on hold till February 19 when Amethi goes to polls in the third phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh.

Vadra was stopped by the authorities while heading towards Salon area of the district for using more vehicles against the permitted number of ten bikes, District Magistrate J P Gupta said.

Sen had also ordered filing of an FIR against the local Congress candidate in the Assembly poll.

Quraishi told that "on Tuesday's incident is unrelated to the observer’s transfer. It has nothing to do with it. The Election Commission had during its meeting this morning decided that Sen be posted as Deputy Commissioner in South Goa, after complaints from various political parties about the conduct of the present DC in South Goa who was earlier the state Chief Minister’s Principal Secretary".

"We had decided to seek a panel from the state government and among the panel was Sen’s name – the other two being Secretaries to the chief minister and Governor.

"The EC in its meeting finalized his (Sen's) name in the morning on Tuesday. The incident in which Robert Vadra was involved happened in the evening and had nothing to do with Sen’s transfer. Even the recommendation of FIR done by him was against the Congress candidate and not Vadra," Quraishi said.

The EC wants free and fair polls and Sen was transferred as DC, South Goa, as he belongs to the Goa cadre, added Quraishi.

"To avoid misinterpretation by some mischievous people, we have since kept on hold his transfer. He will be relieved from his election observer duty only after the polls are over on February 19", he added.

He said when an EC team had visited Goa last week it had received complaints that the South Goa Collector may not be neutral and "the only IAS officer available to us is this chap Mr Sen. So, we decided since we have so many observers in UP, we can use another observer".

"This transfer was done in the morning and we would not know what is going to happen in the evening. So, linking it up is a very stupid thing to do for anybody", the CEC said.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer Umesh Sinha, when asked about the recommendation made by him for registration of an FIR, said the "Poll observer Sen, after stopping the cavalcade of Congress nominee, in which Robert Vadra also participated, had recommended registration of an FIR against the Cong nominee (Shiv Balak Passi)."

He, however, did not confirm whether the FIR against Passi, the Congress nominee from Salon Assembly seat in Amethi, had been registered or not.

Following the controversy over Sen's transfer, the Election Commission in a late night communication said, "This decision has been baselessly linked to certain enforcement action taken by the particular officer in his capacity as an election observer in an incident involving Shri Robert Vadra. The officer acted in accordance with the law and fully in
conformity with the instructions of ECI."

"The decision to post Shri Sen as the District Election Officer in South Goa was in process for a week, based on the need to replace the present DEO in that district...Sen was found most suitable for the post and his appointment was accordingly ordered by the Commission well before the incident in CSM Nagar district took place."

(Agencies)