The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sultan of Siwan free after Rabri push

Patna, Feb. 24: Chief minister Rabri Devi today made use of her powers to quash the orders of one of her own officers and paved the way for the freedom of controversial Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Mohammad Shahabuddin.

Taking on the Election Commission, Shahabuddin, facing criminal charges in more than two dozen cases, said, 'I will got to any extreme, come what may, for the formation of a Rashtriya Janata Dal government in Bihar. You can interpret this whichever way you want to and write whatever you wish to.'

'The action of the Siwan district magistrate was illegal and guided by vested interests. A particular political party has also influenced the Election Commission. The kind of action taken against me has no precedent in any other state that has gone to elections,' Shahabuddin, whose name spells terror in Siwan, said.

Siwan district magistrate-cum-returning officer C.K. Anil had slapped Section 25 of the Bihar Control of Crime Act to stop the release of Shahabuddin till February 28 ' when the election process would be over ' from Patna's Beur Jail.

Anil's order came after Patna High Court had granted bail to the MP. He had been moved to Beur Jail from the Siwan prison on the orders of the Election Commission.

The aftermath of these actions helped in the conduct of free and fair elections in Siwan, which has a history of poll-related violence. The district administration had cracked down on controversial figures and even debarred Shahabuddin from entering Siwan for six months. The 'externment' order is still in force. On the instructions of the chief minister, home secretary Girish Shankar today issued orders quashing the action taken by the district magistrate.

The chief minister's action evoked a strong response from the BJP, which described it as a 'blatant use of power by the chief minister' before the election process is complete.

BJP vice-president Sushil Kumar Modi said Shahabuddin had been freed to 'manage' legislators in the case of a hung Assembly. 'Shahabuddin did the same after the 200 Assembly elections when he kept a large number of MLAs captive in a local hotel. He has made his intentions very clear today,' Modi said.

'The order has come just before the departure of the Rabri Devi government. We have requested the Election Commission to take serious note of the development and quash the orders of the state government and instruct it to arrest Shahabuddin. The election process is far from over and the counting of votes is as liable to influenced by controversial elements as is the polling of votes,' Modi said.


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