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EC: file case against Tandon 
Lucknow stampede deaths
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 16
In a major blow to the BJP, the Election Commission today issued show-cause notice to the saffron party for violating the Model Code of Conduct and ordered the registration of a bribery case against BJP leader Lalji Tandon and others in the Lucknow saree stampede incident, in which 22 women and children lost their lives.

The three-member poll panel headed by the Chief Election Commissioner, Mr T.S. Krishna Murthy, Mr B.B. Tandon and Mr N. Gopalaswamy took this decision after studying the report sent by the Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary and state Chief Electoral Officer about the incident.

Briefing newspersons Deputy Election Commissioner A.N. Jha said the Commission had issued notice to the BJP after it found that prima facie the party violated the Model Code of Conduct on April 12, when it organised the birthday celebrations for Mr Tandon and distributed sarees.

He said the BJP had been given seven days time to reply to the show cause notice.

Mr Jha said provision four of the code clearly states that “political parties and candidates shall avoid scrupulously all activities which are `corrupt practices’ and offences under the election law, such as bribing of voters, intimidation of voters....”

The Deputy EC did not specify as to what action it would take if the BJP failed to give a satisfactory reply to the show cause notice. ‘’That will be considered only after the reply is received,’’ he said.

He said the Commission had asked the state government to register a criminal case under Section 171 (B) of Indian Penal Code, which deals with bribery during the period of election against Mr Tandon and others who were involved in the organisation of the birthday bash and distribution of sarees.

The law enforcing agency, Mr Jha said had been asked to investigate the incident and identify others involved in the case and register cases against them. The EC also directed the Uttar Pradesh government to immediately transfer District Magistrate Aradhna Shukla and Senior Superintendent of Police, Lucknow, Rajiv Ranjan Varma.

He said the EC would be writing to the state government asking it to send a panel of names of suitable IAS and IPS officers to be posted as their replacement.

Asked whether the commission planned to initiate any action against Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who is the candidate from the Lucknow Parliamentary constituency, Mr Jha said on that day of the incident, Mr Vajpayee had not become the BJP candidate from Lucknow constituency, nor Mr Tandon had been named as the election agent of the candidate.

Sources in the EC said the poll panel if it found the BJP guilty of violating the code could countermand the polls in the parliamentary constituency. The saree stampede tragedy had placed the BJP in the backfoot Mr Vajpayee filed his nomination in a low key manner.

Though Mr Vajpayee expressed sorrow for the incident, he virtually defended the distribution of saree at the venue by stating that such largesee had been given in the past.

Mr Tandon, a day after the tragedy, had stated that “accidents do happen .... road and rail accidents also claim lives.”

The CPM had released photocopies of advertisements published in newspapers about the function to celebrate the birthday of Mr Tandon and how the crowd was mobilised by the party, money charged from women for getting the sarees and party flags adorning the function.


Countermand election in Lucknow, says Opposition
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 16
Opposition parties today demanded countermanding of elections in Lucknow parliamentary constituency where Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is contesting on the BJP ticket following the Election Commission issuing show cause notice to the party for violating the model code of conduct in the saree stampede incident.

The BJP, on the other hand, reacted cautiously to the Election Commission’s show cause notice.

“Election in Lucknow should be countermanded. There should be a fresh notification for holding poll in the constituency”, Congress spokesman Kapil Sibal told reporters, welcoming the Election Commission order directing the U.P. Government to register a bribery case against Lalji Tandon, a close associate of Mr Vajpayee.

The Congress spokesman said the way the Prime Minister defended Tandon saying “election cannot wait” and that such incidents keep happening showed he was totally in agreement with what had happened in Lucknow.

The BJP said it would extend all cooperation to the constitutional authority and appealed against “politicising” the Lucknow stampede incident.

“It (stampede) was an unfortunate incident. Let us not politicise it. We will provide all cooperation to the constitutional authority and furnish all necessary information,” BJP joint spokesman Prakash Javadekar told The Tribune.

He said the party would come out with a “detailed reaction after studying the full order of the Election Commission.” Reacting to the EC’s directive, the Left parties today sought to question the validity of the nomination of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Tandon was one of the proposers of his candidature.

The Returning Officer must examine the validity of the nomination form (of Vajpayee) as Tandon was one of the proposers of the Prime Minister’s candidature, CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury said. He said the Commission had “acted as per law and we want that its directions are now sincerely implemented”.

CPI National Secretary D. Raja said it “exposed the BJP’s efforts to hush up or downplay the entire episode — the manner in which the function was organised, the way in which people were brought to the venue and the final tragedy in which 22 innocent lives were lost”.Back

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