The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Attack and disaster on poll-eve

Ahmedabad, Dec. 11: As the countdown to polling began in Gujarat, a Madhya Pradesh minister campaigning for the Congress in tribal Dahod district was shot at by supporters of the rival BJP candidate.

Bala Bacchan was in the middle of a meeting in the house of a local Congress worker in Limdi when loyalists of the BJP’s Maheshbhai Bhuria fired on him.

Bacchan escaped unhurt because his alert bodyguard returned fire, but his car was badly damaged in the melee.

In another stroke of ill luck for the Congress, 10 party workers on their way to attend Sonia Gandhi’s rally in Himachal Pradesh were killed when their bus plunged into a deep gorge near Rohroo. Twenty-four were seriously hurt.

The Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee has complained to chief electoral officer Gurucharan Singh about the attack on the minister.

“Had the guard of the minister not returned fire, the minister and other Congress workers would have been killed,” it alleged, adding the brother of the BJP candidate was present when the incident took place.

Congress general secretary Kamal Nath told reporters that the BJP’s intention was to create terror in the constituency so that people did not venture out to cast their votes tomorrow. In sheer desperation, the BJP had switched from wooing voters to terrorising them, he alleged.

Nath also placed outgoing chief minister Narendra Modi in the firing line, asking him not to stoop so low as to claim that Pakistan would burst crackers if his party came up trumps.

“If the Congress comes to power in Gujarat, it will be a slap on Pakistan’s face,” he said, adding a BJP government would suit Islamabad far better.

The general secretary alleged that Modi had turned the chief minister’s office into the election office, in a clear violation of the model code of conduct.

In another complaint to the chief electoral officer, the Congress alleged that a police inspector of Kagdapith, G.H. Algotar, had been campaigning for the BJP in three seats. The party has sought immediate action against the official.

As rivals put each other in their gunsights, some prominent Gandhians appealed to the people to shun communalism and vote in the real interests of Gujarat.

In a joint appeal, Gandhians Prakash Shah, Indu Kumar Jani and Chunibhai Vaidy said: “It is time for the voters to speak out loud and clear. Before doing so, they should weigh what is right and what is in the real interests of Gujarat. Any parochial approach will never lead Gujarat to its desired prosperity and development.”

Stating there was no room for sectarian politics as it had ruined trade and commerce and tarnished the state’s human and liberal image, the leaders — who have formed the Gujarat Lok Sangharsh Samiti — said the BJP “does not deserve our support” as it had downgraded the quality of social life.

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