The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Laloo ‘bandobast’ to keep Rudy at bay

Chhapra, April 26: “Chhapra chhapa gaeel (Chhapra has been rigged)” was the verdict from most voters, midway through the eyeball-to-eyeball contest between RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav and Union minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy.

By the end of the day, at least one person lay dead and several were injured in incidents of firing, bomb explosions and clashes in Chhapra.

Director-general of police Narayan Mishra said Sudarshan Singh was killed at Lohra Chatia. Police had to fire three rounds at Nawadih while a bomb was exploded at Chirand.

It is not that the BJP, which fielded civil aviation minister Rudy for the prestige fight, did not make “preparations”. Only that it was no match for the RJD’s “bandobast”.

While Rudy roamed the interiors of the constituency, at the BJP’s main election office, the mood was downcast. “The entire administration has sided with the RJD. Police officials are openly misusing their authority,” BJP spokesman Kiran Ghai said.

Special observer Saptarshi said: “Complaints have been pouring in from all sides. The district magistrate and the police superintendent will submit a report by evening.”

Reminded that there were complaints against the district magistrate and the SP, he said: “Even those will be looked into provided we get specific complaints.”

The most innovative complaint, by far, was that the electronic voting machines had been tampered with so as to ensure that the vote was polled for only one particular symbol, never mind the button a voter punched.

“It has happened at booth number 77. We are gathering more information,” Ghai said.

The most glaring lapse of the “foolproof security measures” was perhaps at booth number 167 in Dariyawan Ganj where an unarmed village chowkidar was the sole protector of people’s right to vote. The presiding officer, huddled in one corner of the primary school, said: “Why are you asking the obvious' Aapko to stithi maloom hi hai (You very well know the situation). I have only a few days left to retire.”

Chhapra town saw a total polarisation of voters into two camps, each trying to wield its baton in its pockets. At booths from where complaints of irregularities came in, large groups of people were waiting outside. “Sab theek hai, wapas jaayie (Everything is fine, you may go back),” was the common request made by these groups. The voter turnout was impressive in the constituency and preliminary reports put the percentage around 60.

On the nearby Patna-Chhapra Highway, a large number of BJP supporters alleged that only the voters of one party were allowed to exercise their franchise. A youth showed a fresh blade mark on his face and said: “This is what is happening here.”

But at the booth, a small queue of voters was waiting. “Sab theek hai yahan. BJP waale jhooth bol rahe hain (Everything is fine. The BJP guys are lying),” they said. No woman voter could be spotted.

The RJD chief was inside the house of local MLA and minister Udit Rai for most of the day. “He is sleeping,” was the terse response at the gate to requests for an audience. “Try in the evening.” Laloo Prasad, if those at the gate are to be believed, had one of his longest siestas today.

Near another booth on the highway, RJD supporters alleged that the BJP workers were preventing them from casting their votes. “We have been turned away from the booth,” they said.

Laloo Prasad’s brother-in-law Subhash Yadav was moving about in the constituency in a blue numberless Scorpio, the BJP said. The Election Commission ordered him to leave the place.

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