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Code clock ticks on Laloo
- Egged on by crowd, entertainer crosses poll panel's meeting deadline

Aurangabad, Oct. 8: The time Laloo Prasad Yadav spent at a Congress-Nationalist Congress Party rally last night instructing people how to operate electronic voting machines has put the Congress in a spot of bother.

The rival Shiv Sena-BJP combine, led by Sena Aurangabad parliamentarian Chandrakant Khaire, has threatened to move the Election Commission alleging that he violated the model code of conduct by continuing to speak at the Roshan Gate meeting beyond the 10 pm deadline.

Laloo Prasad himself was mindful of the code as at the stroke of 10 he enquired about the time with the Aurangabad (west) Congress candidate Rajendra Darda who was on the podium.

'The meeting is over,' Laloo Prasad then declared. 'If I don't stop now, the election in this constituency could be cancelled because of the model code of conduct. I do not intend to violate the code.'

However, the crowd would have none of it. Having waited for almost six hours, they shouted for more and the minister obliged, saying what he said after 10 pm would not be treated as part of the meeting.

For seven-eight minutes after that, he told the crowd it should ensure a Congress win by punching the button beside the hand symbol till the machine made a 'peeh' sound.

The crowd could not be blamed for being restive as the meeting was scheduled for 3 pm. But Laloo Prasad hadn't landed till 8 in the evening and the crowd had both swelled and grown restive.

Darda tried to engage the people with songs and sher-shayari, but they weren't pacified. Local Congress and NCP leaders who addressed them in a bid to buy time were shouted down. So, Darda announced that former AICC general secretary Mohsina Kidwai ' the area is Muslim-dominated ' would address them. Kidwai spoke for 10 minutes but her words were drowned in chants of 'Laloo, Laloo, Laloo'.

After that, there were signs that the crowd would erupt as it was beginning to lose hope that Laloo Prasad would land. Darda could not contact him over his mobile. Around 8.45, a police officer announced over the loud speaker that the minister was not expected to arrive before 9.30.

When Laloo Prasad finally landed, the relief in the Congress camp was palpable. In just two days of campaigning, he had proved his drawing power was second only to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and NCP president Sharad Pawar.

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