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NDA sees plot in EC team going to Bihar

NDA sees plot in EC team going to Bihar

Author: Pioneer News Service
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: May 9, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/174974/NDA-sees-plot-in-EC-team-going-to-Bihar.html

Move an effort to mollify Lalu

In a surprise move that has triggered a major controversy, the Election Commission on Friday woke up to poll-related complaints made almost a month ago in Bihar and rushed six teams to the State to unravel the truth.

The NDA has slammed the move and said it was taken to mollify RJD chief Lalu Prasad, whose Saran constituency was among the six visited by the EC team. The Janata Dal (U) has said the EC move may have been at the behest of the Congress whose overture for post-poll tie-up has been rebuffed by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

The NDA has faxed a one-page letter protesting the commission's action and questioned the timing and intention of sending the poll party. In their letter, Bihar NDA leaders urged the commission that if their demand of taking everyone into confidence is not addressed, they would launch a Jan Aandolan (public rally) against the decision.

The commission's late response came at a time when Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had rebuffed the Congress overture for a post-poll tie-up. The decision was so sudden that candidates were caught unawares. They had little time to make them available before the EC officials who summoned them on Friday evening after landing unannounced in Patna in the afternoon.

After the first phase of Lok Sabha poll on April 16, the poll panel had received complaints about certain irregularities during polling. So far the EC had announced re-polling and deferred election in 145 polling stations (Phase-1), 12 polling stations (Phase-2), and 28 polling stations in Phases-3, in view of such complaints. However, the recent decision of the EC came as a bolt from the blue for several candidates who were called without notice by commission officials. Even the State Government cried foul that neither any notice of visit was given nor any permission sought by the poll team.

While no response was forthcoming from the EC, an official Press note issued by the poll panel said, "In view of persistent complaints regarding some polling stations in different constituencies, the commission has decided to send on Friday the teams to visit Aurangabad, Saran, Jamui, Maharajganj, Jehanabad, Munger and Gaya and submit the feedback reports."

But the commission's explanation added fuel to the fire with the NDA leaders expressing serious concern over the EC move.

Criticising the commission's move, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "This is a novel way of investigation. Usually there is a complaint or an Observer's report and the EC looks into it. If it feels there is a need for a repoll, it orders one." Prasad sought to know the purpose and the nature of the complaint that led to the formation of the special team.

JD(U) national spokesperson Shivanand Tiwari found the commission's action unreasonable. "Bihar has witnessed the most peaceful election so far in recent so many years and it has been widely reported in print and electronic media," he said.

"The EC has taken this decision unilaterally as no political party or leader was informed or contacted before taking this decision. It is shocking and surprising that without any valid basis the EC has taken the decision to send the officials," Tiwari said.

He alleged that the Congress could also be behind it, as the party had tried its best to create a rift between the JD(U) and the BJP during the poll by showering praise on Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and throwing the hat into the ring by suggesting that Nitish might align with the Congress after the poll.

Tiwari even expressed his anger on how the EC could take such a big decision without taking anyone into confidence. "The decision has raised question mark on the functioning of the Election Commission," he added.

Echoing his sentiments was State BJP president Radha Mohan Singh. "Besides, micro observers, more than one observer were deputed at every constituency by the Election Commission for its peaceful and fair conduct, but still EC has decided to send a team of officials to look into the complaints," Singh added.

The doubts expressed by the leaders are not without merit. The areas picked up by the commission include Saran Lok Sabha seat where RJD chief Lalu Prasad is facing a tough fight from BJP's Rajiv Pratap Rudy. After initial reports suggesting Lalu's rout in this constituency, he has been stretching his influence every bit to prevail upon the Congress at the Centre to find a way out to deny Rudy any chances of win. Sources within the party believe that Friday's action could be an attempt to mollify Lalu in view of his non-participation in Friday's Cabinet meeting.

Similar fate faces RJD leader Ram Badan Rai contesting from Munger where JD(U) candidate Lallan Singh is said to have a clear edge. RJD leaders had complained that 83 booths having 33,992 voters in Lakhisarai and Suryagarha Assembly segments of Munger were allegedly captured by the JD(U) workers.

The non-cordial approach of the political class apart, even public in several constituencies were not ready to spare the commission with the poll team being mobbed in several areas on the first day of visit.

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