The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Laloo's cash show draws EC lash

New Delhi, Dec. 20: The Election Commission today accused Laloo Prasad Yadav of bribing voters and threatened to strike off his Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) as a legitimate political party after he distributed cash to people who attended a public meeting addressed by him on Saturday.

'The commission is of the opinion you, as president of the RJD, have violated the model code by distributing money to the electorate of Bihar as reported in the media,' the notice said.

Unfazed, the railway minister said in Patna: 'Thank God, I have been shown distributing money and not taking money.' He defended his act on the plea that he was seeking the blessings of poor and aged Dalit women.

Even Laloo Prasad, however, will find it difficult to fight off the threat to derecognise his party. The commission notice said the TV footage ' on STAR News ' clearly showed him distributing cash.

The notice was issued after the chief electoral officer of Bihar, on the directions of the panel, filed a first information report at Bihta police station near Patna. In the FIR, Laloo Prasad has been accused of bribing and violating electoral laws under Section 171(b) of the Indian Penal Code.

The Bihar leader distributed Rs 100 notes to his constituents in a village near Patna after announcement of dates for the Assembly elections in February. The model code of conduct takes effect from the day, last Friday in this case, poll dates are set.

His party has been given time till 3 pm on December 24 to reply to the notice.

A full meeting of the commission headed by chief election commissioner T.S. Krishnamurthy directed the Bihar chief electoral officer to file the FIR. The commission also told the Railway Board that no special facility should be extended to the RJD for a rally in Patna on December 23.

The commission appointed Sayan Chatterjee as a special observer for the rally and sent its adviser, K.J. Rao, to Bihar.

Billboards of the RJD were pulled down in Patna on the commission's orders.

Laloo Prasad said he was aware of election rules. 'I am used to giving money to poor Dalits, not only during election time, for receiving blessings from aged Dalit women.'

The minister, who has repeatedly beaten back threats to his authority in Bihar, is once again casting himself as the victimised leader.

Sushma Swaraj, who led a BJP delegation to the chief election commissioner, alleged that Laloo Prasad was 'bribing' voters.


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