The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rudy, repoll can’t stop Laloo

Patna, June 2: The RJD’s belief that party boss Laloo Prasad Yadav’s victory from Madhepura made no difference to the voters of Chhapra was proved right today with the railway minister beating BJP’s Rajiv Pratap Rudy by over 70,000 votes.

Laloo Prasad will vacate either of the seats but he has yet to reveal his mind.

A total repoll was held in Chhapra on May 31 on the Election Commission’s orders based on a report by a fact-finding team that toured the constituency. Rudy was the main complainant, alleging large-scale rigging and violence in the April 26 polling. The former Union minister produced video recordings to support his charges.

Laloo Prasad all along held that there were no irregularities in the initial poll process and the charges made by Rudy had been blown out of proportion. The RJD president took the same stand in the case of Bettiah and Siwan seats where repolls were held in a large number of booths.

All three seats have gone to the RJD, which has finally won 22 of the 40 seats in Bihar. Its allies Lok Janshakti Party and the Congress bagged four and three seats respectively, while the NDA was confined to 11.

Monday’s polling saw a low voter turnout of around 40 per cent and the counting today was delayed because repoll was ordered in three booths of the constituency. Voter disinterest was cited as the main reason for the low poll percentage.

The RJD described the victory as “very significant” because it was the first time Laloo Prasad was fighting against a BJP candidate after making the slogan “BJP bhagao, desh bachao” his principal campaign call. Chhapra was one of the few constituencies in Bihar where Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as Prime Minister, campaigned for the BJP’s candidate.

In Madhepura, Laloo Prasad trounced Janata Dal (United) veteran Sharad Yadav by a margin of nearly 70,000 votes.

“We have shown the BJP its place in these elections and Chhapra has been the climax of our victory procession. The people of Bihar, in line with the country’s electorate, have solidly defeated the communal forces. We now have to ensure that BJP does not rear its dangerous head in Bihar and elsewhere,” jubilant RJD leaders said at the party headquarters.

Winning Chhapra was also crucial for Laloo Prasad because he belongs to the region. Besides, the Bihar strongman was pitted against a relatively new entrant to politics in the constituency. The main division was between Yadav and Rajput voters. Preliminary reports suggest that Muslims and voters from the weaker sections backed Laloo Prasad in the constituency.

Ever since the United Progressive Front government came to office at the Centre, the mood in the state BJP had been downcast. Party leaders privately admitted that they had little hope of Rudy standing against the sweeping tide of RJD’s victory trail in the state.

“Everything went against our expectation in these elections. We did not believe that Chhapra would be any exception. But we must thank the Election Commission for conducting fair polling in Chhapra,” a senior BJP leader said.

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