The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Safed Sher roars at Big Two

Lalgaon, Mangawar (Madhya Pradesh), Nov. 28: A saying in Mangawar constituency in Madhya Pradesh goes: “Dada nahin, dau hain, vote pade nahin tau hain (He’s not a grandpa but god, even if votes are not cast, he wins).”

The words are in praise of Assembly Speaker Sriniwas Tiwari’s uncanny ability to win polls though he scrapes through, like the last time with 200-odd votes.

The 78-year-old “Safed Sher (white tiger)”, so called because of his white hair and eyebrows, is crying foul at the Election Commission’s “conspiracy” against him and his people.

The poll panel deleted 22,000 “fake voters” from the electoral rolls in this outpost of eastern Madhya Pradesh, 120 km from Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh.

Notorious for electoral malpractice, Mangawar has also been fortified by the panel with a trainload of government employees from faraway Bhopal and Jabalpur to conduct “free and fair” polls.

The arrangements are said to be unprecedented as the train expenses have cost the local administration Rs 34 lakh, with each employee brought in getting an insurance cover of Rs 3 lakh.

The move was triggered by the panel’s discovery of 1,245 voters — both from majority and minority communities — recorded in the rolls as living in a cramped three-room mud house.

Then the panel heard that 500,000 holograms used in photo-identity cards had been stolen. A few police raids later, the holograms were found.

Much like the BJP’s Narendra Modi during last year’s Gujarat polls, Tiwari is busy crying conspiracy and alleging that “genuine voters” have been deleted from the rolls. The culprits, he says, are the Prime Minister and his deputy.

Tiwari aims big for he leaves aside “lesser mortals” like BJP’s Uma Bharti and Kailash Joshi to go straight for Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani, who he says are wary of him. “The Mangawar elections are being fought on two counts. The first battle is between the people of Mangawar and the Election Commission. The second is between me and Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” he thundered at a rally in Lalgaon.

Associates Jai Ram Shukla and Om Prakash Mishra gushed. “Look at Punditji. He will win by at least 50,000 votes,” one of them said.

Shukla, the Assembly deputy secretary, said he quit government service to work for his “master”. “You see, it is a matter of a few days. Tiwariji and the Congress will win and everything will be normal. Otherwise, in any case, I would be out,” he said.

Tiwari accused Vajpayee of insulting Mangawar voters by claiming many were fake. “Wahre Atal Bihari,” he said, “you think a labourer working in the field is fake, you think a village girl married off to another town is fake, you think a government employee working in Rewa or Bhopal is fake.”

He wondered aloud about the electoral status of Vajpayee and Advani, who he said live in Delhi but are registered as voters in Lucknow and Ahmedabad.

Tiwari then went on to allege that the Prime Minister, his deputy and the poll panel were monitoring his remarks. “The last time I said it was a conspiracy, the cassette recording was called for and Atal Bihari ordered 12 more police companies to be sent to Mangawar,” he said.

He also complained of a “raid raj” by the Centre, alleging that the house of an associate, Damodar Yadav, had been searched.

Tiwari read aloud from a letter Yadav wrote him to drive his point home. “The police asked me where the money is and where the blankets are' I kept pleading innocence and they said: (abuse) here are the blankets that are for free distribution!”

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