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Lalu, Rabri get kid-glove treatment from EC

Lalu, Rabri get kid-glove treatment from EC

Author: Pioneer News Service
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 14, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/169488/Lalu-Rabri-get-kid-glove-treatment-from-EC.html

Even as the Election Commission on Monday let off Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi lightly for their offensive remarks against Varun Gandhi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar respectively, the BJP slammed the panel for being soft on the RJD leaders, while using a different yardstick in the Varun Gandhi case. The panel's expression of mere "displeasure" over the two leaders' utterances is in sharp contrast to its unprecedented step of "advising" the BJP to spike Varun's candidature for an alleged hate speech.

Although the commission was dissatisfied with the replies given by the two leaders, it did not issue any 'advisory' of the kind it did on Varun Gandhi. Briefing on the commission's decision, Deputy Election Commissioner R Balakrishnan told reporters that the replies of Lalu and his wife were "not satisfactory."

Responding to a specific charge that the commission went soft on Lalu and Rabri, Balakrishnan said, "You have to see the gravity of the statement." Agreeing that being a senior leader, Lalu ought to have restrained from use of such language, the poll panel offered its justification in the following words: "While Prasad's statement was against an individual, Gandhi's statement threatened an entire community."

Lalu had invited action from the commission on a BJP complaint of a speech delivered at an election meeting at Kishanganj (Bihar). The Union Minister reacted to Varun's allegedly anti-Muslim comments in a 'filmi' style stating that, had he been the Home Minister he would crush Varun Gandhi under a "roller without caring for the consequences." Though his comments received applause from the largely Muslim-dominated constituency, the commission found him prima facie guilty of poll code violation.

Offering a clarification in his reply, Lalu told the commission that what he intended in his speech was to crush the BJP candidate under the "roller of law" to suggest he would have been bulldozed him legally.

His spouse Rabri Devi too incurred the commission's wrath for an uncharitable remark against Nitish Kumar. Terming Kumar as the 'brother-in-law of Rajeev Ranjan Singh alias Lallan Singh and vice versa, Rabri has been slapped with a defamation notice from both Nitish and Lallan. Cases against both Lalu and Rabri are pending in separate police stations.

Similarly, the commission also expressed its displeasure to senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh, who was earlier served with a notice for allegedly distributing money during a public meeting in Rajasthan's Barmer district. Similar fate met Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray for his alleged derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a rally.

Besides, the commission asked the Maharashtra CEO to record all the political meetings of Thackeray. Dealing with the case of Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, who was issued notice for allegedly offering poll sops during a visit to Rajasthan for a security review meeting, the commission asked him to avoid making a statement that could be "misinterpreted or misunderstood".

Expressing dismay over the EC ruling, BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said the poll panel had let the two leaders off despite the entire nation being witness to the hate language they had used. He also pointed out that P Chidambaram too had taken exception to the language and said it was inappropriate.

Prasad said the EC was expected to act in an impartial manner and not give cause to doubt its integrity.

Meanwhile, the commission is yet to act against Andhra Pradesh Congress chief D Srinivas for alleged hate speech. Balakrishnan said that the Congress leader had replied that the voice on the CD was not his and he had been asked to send his version. The charge against him related to his speech at Nizamabad where he threatened to "sever" the hands of those who point a finger at minorities. A complaint against him was lodged by the State BJP unit terming the statement "highly objectionable" and meant to hurt the religious sentiments of the majority community.

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