The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fatal gaffe arms Laloo in EC war

Patna, Oct. 26: The Election Commission’s war-like poll management may have ensured what is arguably the fairest election in Bihar, but a livid Laloo Prasad Yadav sees it as an upper-caste “conspiracy”.

The killing of a youth by paramilitary forces in Rabri Devi’s constituency Raghopur today may give him the ground for bolstering his argument.

In an exclusive interview to The Telegraph, Laloo Prasad attacked the poll panel for “spreading panic” in Bihar. “It feels like we are fighting a war over here,” he said. He is particularly upset with the statement of poll panel adviser K.J. Rao that the situation in Bihar is more dangerous than that in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Are we fighting insurgency here' People cannot walk freely on the streets. They can’t enter their own houses because there are blockades on the roads. What kind of persecution is this' Are we all criminals'” Laloo Prasad asked.

Official sources said a “mentally unsound” man, Pappu Singh, was mistaken for a booth-grabber and shot dead when he pointed a toy pistol at a BSF contingent. Barring the incident, the second phase of polling today was by and large peaceful and registered a turnout of around 46 per cent.

RJD insiders believe that this incident may boost Laloo Prasad’s attempts to polarise opinion in his favour. “They are going overboard this time. What the EC is doing is completely unfair. The people of Bihar understand all this,” said rural development minister and Laloo Prasad’s colleague Raghuvansh Prasad Singh.

Laloo alleged that paramilitary forces gangraped two Dalit women in Cheria Bariarpur. “Why do you think all Muslim officers are being shifted out of their districts' They are responsible for ensuring free and fair polls, not destroying democracy in the state,” he added.

Laloo Prasad also referred to the controversy linked to Union minister Jaiprakash Narain Yadav, against whom a warrant has been issued freeing his brother arrested on charges of roaming with a gun on the first day of polling. Jaiprakash sought bail today.

Laloo Prasad said Jaiprakash’s brother Vijay Prakash, the RJD candidate from Jamui, was assaulted by paramilitary forces, terming it an “insult” to the people of Bihar.

He claimed that it was a repeat of former chief election commissioner T.N. Seshan’s campaign “personally directed at me” during the 1995 Assembly elections.

“At that time, too, I was the target. You see, the system does not suffer a man who comes from the oppressed castes. The system is controlled by people from the upper castes. They are there in the media, they are the system. They will try and finish Laloo Yadav. You have been doing it ' all of you from the media. They call me a joker, a man of inferior intelligence. But do you think I care' The people of Bihar will see through this conspiracy.”

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