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Row over late-night Rabri car check
Lalu sniffs conspiracy

Chhapra, May 4: The RJD smacked conspiracy in the interception of Rabri Devi’s vehicle late last night at Sonepur for checking, which police claimed to be a routine pre-poll exercise.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad sniffed murder or defamation plot in the act of the Sonepur police to check Rabri’s car late on Saturday night. “There was a plan either to kill her or to plant money in her car to defame us,” he said.

The vehicle of Rabri, the RJD candidate in the Saran constituency, was intercepted near Shivbachan Chowk at Sonepur, around 40km north of Patna, when she was returning to the state capital from Chhapra. Lalu was travelling on the same route in a different vehicle.

Sonepur is in the Saran parliamentary constituency.

When Lalu reached Shivbachan Chowk, he was shocked to find the Sonepur police station officer in-charge, Chandra Bhushan Mishra, trying to check Rabri’s vehicle. He had a verbal duel with the policemen on the spot and the district administration officials. Visuals of Lalu threatening a policeman to beat him up with his slippers were beamed on TV channels.

The RJD supporters claimed that a black sports utility vehicle (SUV) was trailing the car of Rabri and it was later spotted at the Sonepur police station when she went there to lodge an FIR alleging that the Saran BJP candidate, Rajiv Pratp Rudy, and the Sonepur police station in-charge, had conspired to assassinate her.

Refuting the charge, the police claimed that the SUV was seized yesterday morning and that its driver had fled hours before the vehicle of Rabri was intercepted.

Denying the charges levelled by the RJD, Saran superintendent of police (SP) Sudhir Kumar Singh said the police checked Rabri’s vehicle following a tip-off that money was being distributed.

“The police tried to check the vehicle but in vain because of stiff resistance. It amounts to preventing a government official from discharging official duty. Appropriate legal action will be taken in this matter. We are investigating the incident,” he said, stressing that so far no case had been lodged against Lalu and Rabri.

The office of the state chief electoral officer has sought a detailed report from the Saran district magistrate-cum-district returning officer on the routine checking of the vehicle of Rabri Devi at Sonepur. Additional chief electoral officer R. Laxmanan said: “Once the report of the district returning officer comes to the CEO office, it would be sent to the Election Commission.”

Rabri today faxed a memorandum to the Election Commission, demanding removal of Mishra, the Sonepur police station officer-in-charge. She also alleged that Rudy, the BJP candidate from the Saran parliamentary seat, was behind her humiliation.

Recounting the last night’s incident, a close of aide of Rabri said this morning: “The incident occurred around midnight when Rabri Devi was returning to the state capital from Chhapra (around 70km from Patna). A black SUV was following us. When we reached Shivbachan Chowk at Sonepur, we found the road barricaded by a police party. As Rabri Devi’s vehicle stopped, the police insisted on searching her vehicle. When she asked who had given them the authority to search her vehicle, the police said they had orders from the ‘above’. In the meantime, the black SUV proceeded to the police station, from where the driver fled.”

An RJD supporter alleged that the police not only searched Rabri’s vehicle but insisted on a body search. “There were no women constables and Rabri enjoys a Z-Plus security. There was a breach of security. The presence of the black SUV at the police station triggers suspicion that there was a conspiracy to assassinate her,” said the RJD supporter, recalling that Lalu had also arrived at the venue then and pelted out his anger.

On Sunday, Rabri Devi’s son Tejaswi alleged that there was indeed a conspiracy against his mother. He alleged that a police officer in the search team was directly related to a JD(U) leader.

The BJP leadership was livid over the complaints lodged against Rudy. “Helicopters of the chief minister and Sushil Kumar Modi have been checked. Why can’t the police check the vehicle of Rabri Devi?” asked the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Nand Kishore Yadav.

The BJP’s national general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan demanded a probe into the entire episode. “It must be found out what Lalu and Rabri were doing so late in the night. Were they offering money for votes?” he asked.

According to a source in the state election commission office, the SPs have been asked to check vehicles at random, including those of VVIPs. “The checking of vehicles curbs transportation of arms and illegal money during elections,” he said.


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