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CD puts Laloo in EC glare

Feb. 12: Laloo Prasad Yadav had another brush with the Election Commission today, with his party being asked for 'more information' on CDs it is using in the poll campaign.

Following complaints that the Rashtriya Janata Dal was using visuals of the Gujarat riots to canvass votes, Bihar's chief electoral officer sent a letter to the party, asking the president to reply by Monday evening, but the deadline was later revised to 7 pm today.

An RJD team met the chief electoral officer this evening and asked for more time to reply, pleading inability to meet the 7 pm deadline. Confusion reigns over whether the time limit has been extended.

The request for information was sent by the electoral officer, K.C. Saha, who has asked the RJD to explain whether the CDs were used for canvassing in Purnea and Kishanganj and whether it had taken permission for this. The electoral officer has the authority to issue the notice and does not necessarily have to be directed by the Election Commission in New Delhi, the sources added.

Reacting to the notice, Laloo Prasad said: 'We are not responsible for the CD in question and our workers are not showing it. We sent CDs containing qawalis for canvassing support after getting the commission's permission.'

Laloo Prasad had earlier said there was nothing objectionable in the CDs and that the RJD had the state election commission's approval for their use.

On another issue, sources said a railway ministry order saying the Delhi-Dehradun Shatabdi Express will have a halt at Deoband, the seat of South Asia's best known Muslim seminary in Uttar Pradesh, from today has been brought to the notice of the commission. But the poll panel has not yet taken a view on the matter.

It has been pointed out that Deoband is not in any of the states going to polls.

The RJD's campaign in Bihar is under close scrutiny after Laloo Prasad wrote to the commission and promised to abide by the model code last month.

He had been issued a showcause notice after television images showed him distributing cash to his constituents at a village near Patna.

The code says electioneering must steer clear of 'communalising' the electorate.

But Congress chief Sonia Gandhi today accused the BJP of trying to create a 'Gujarat' in the rest of India and asked the large crowds at her meetings in Katihar and Madhubani to throw out the communal forces.

'Poverty and unemployment of the youth, besides deteriorating law and order and lack of development, are the real problems of the people here. We are concerned about these and are making a commitment once again to work on these issues,' she said.

BJP president L.K. Advani too held a meeting in Madhubani in which he attacked the Congress and the RJD for the 'deplorable' condition of Bihar.

At a meeting of the Samajwadi Party, about a dozen people were injured in a stampede caused when the crowd moved towards actor-turned-MP Jayaprada.

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