Lucknow/New Delhi, April 17: The BJP has begun working on a strategy to defend Lalji Tandon even as its legal cell focused on a suitable reply to the Election Commission’s showcause notice to the central leadership on the sari stampede.
The twin moves coincided with the filing of an FIR following the poll panel’s indictment of the Lucknow leader on bribery charges. Uttar Pradesh chief electoral officer Vijay Sharma filed the FIR under Section 171 (B) of the IPC — a bailable section — against Tandon and others for offering inducements to poor voters.
If convicted, Tandon could face a year in jail.
Earlier, BJP spokesman Hridaynarayan Dixit said registration of a case does not make any one guilty. “The party does not think he is legally responsible for the deaths or an attempt at bribery. In the Prime Minister’s constituency, the rival candidates are so weak that one does not need to bribe the voters,” he said. Tandon proposed A.B. Vajpayee’s candidature in Lucknow.
In Delhi, BJP general secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi repeatedly said that neither the BJP’s district unit, nor its state or central units, had any “direct or indirect links” with the people who organised the function. Twenty-five women and a three-year-old boy died after the function turned into a chaotic rush.
As part of its legal strategy, the party is believed to have directed Brijen Murari Yadav and Manoj Singh, two key accused in the case, to surrender in court. They did and were granted bail.
While Yadav is a known history sheeter with over 15 cases pending against him, Singh is a former BJP corporator. Both are key office-bearers of the Nagarik Seva Samity, which organised the April 12 programme on Tandon’s birthday.
Naqvi said the party has received the poll commission notice and was studying the order. “We have sought more details from Tandon and on that basis we would give the appropriate reply to the notice.... We will give the commission whatever facts we are able to gather,” he said.
Naqvi said he spoke this morning to Tandon, who told him that every year he distributes gifts on his birthday to the needy. The only difference this time was it was just before the elections.
He lashed out at the Congress for demanding that the poll panel postpone elections in Lucknow, saying the party “has become an extra constitutional authority”.