The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sparks fly over Bihar poll killing
- Doubts cast on Naxalite link to ambush

Patna, Jan. 23: The murder of a candidate last night has ignited an uproar in Bihar with Laloo Prasad Yadav's opponents casting a cloud on the government's version that Naxalites were behind the ambush.

Rajesh Kumar, the Lok Janshakti Party candidate and a former member of Parliament, was killed while returning from a campaign meeting.

The government said Naxalites attacked three campaign vehicles of Kumar, who was contesting from the Imamganj seat in Gaya, and sprayed bullets, killing the candidate and three others.

Demanding a CBI probe, Ram Vilas Paswan said the chief minister should resign and the election conducted under President's rule.

'The security provided to candidates is extremely poor. This indicates the gross failure of the Rashtriya Janata Dal government on law and order,' Paswan said, adding that the Election Commission should take note of it.

Kumar was said to be on the 'hitlist' of Naxalites for long. But LJP sources said their party has no enmity with the rebels and insisted that the murder is 'mysterious'.

'Law and order in Bihar is non-existent. The RJD government is to be blamed for it. Even a police superintendent was killed recently. A fair poll can be held only under President's rule now,' Paswan said.

Kumar and the others were killed near Bikua village in Gaya district. Police said the extremists were waiting for the LJP nominee to return. Two vehicles, including Kumar's Scorpio, were set ablaze by the attackers. While Kumar and two others were shot dead, another died due to burns.

Police sources claimed that central paramilitary forces have been reinforced in the area but the situation continued to be 'tense'.

Kumar's was the first case of poll-related murder during the Assembly elections in Bihar. Most political parties apprehended violence despite the Election Commission's promise to double the number of paramilitary personnel, compared with the Lok Sabha elections.

'This additional security will only be for polling day. This will not check pre-poll violence, especially in the extremist-affected central Bihar districts,' an LJP leader said.

The CPI (M-L), whose Jharkhand legislator Mahendra Prasad Singh was recently murdered in Giridih district, described the Imamganj incident as 'merely a symptom of the pathetic security situation' in Bihar.

'This was a state-sponsored political murder. We do not rule out more such incidents in the run-up to the elections,' CPI (M-L) functionary Dhiren Jha said.

The extremist-affected districts like Gaya, Jehanabad, Arwal, Aurangabad, Rohtas and Bhojpur go to polls in the first phase on February 3. Naxalites have been giving calls to boycott the elections.

The BJP condemned the murder and said: 'The deteriorating situation is a matter of concern for everyone except the ruling RJD. Kumar's killing could be a political murder.'

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