The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No takers for Laloo's sack-Modi call

New Delhi, April 22: Railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav has got enmeshed in the political web he spun after the train crash in Gujarat.

Rather than focusing on the accident and going into its causes, Laloo Prasad deflected attention on himself by gunning for Narendra Modi's scalp after he was attacked by activists allegedly belonging to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal.

While the United Progressive Alliance expressed solidarity with Laloo Prasad to the extent of strongly condemning the attack and instituting a probe by the home ministry, his call for Modi's sack found no takers.

Laloo Prasad, out in the cold after losing his Bihar throne, apparently saw in the attack his chance to bounce back on the political centre stage.

He lost no time in prodding the UPA into action. Shortly after returning from Gujarat, he called on Manmohan Singh.

Prime Minister Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi asked the latter's political secretary, Ahmed Patel, and junior home minister Suresh Pachauri to call on him. They were joined by the Left's Sitaram Yechury and D. Raja.

An emergency meeting of the cabinet committee on political affairs was convened to take stock of the accident and the assault on Laloo Prasad. Government sources said the general feeling was while the attack should not go unchallenged, nothing should be done to make Gujarat chief minister Modi a 'hero'.

Therefore, the Centre calibrated its response to the extent of ordering a probe and seeking the state government's version through the governor.

Raja said: 'We hold the state government responsible for failing to provide security to the minister. As for his demand for its dismissal, that is his stand and we are not commenting on it at this point of time. But he has every right to speak for himself.'

In Calcutta, CPM veteran Jyoti Basu opposed Laloo Prasad's demand and said the Gujarat government must not be dismissed.

Mulayam Singh Yadav seconded Basu, saying the demand would endanger the country's federal structure. The Uttar Pradesh chief minister said: 'Dismissal of a government on such a petty issue will endanger the federal structure of the country. We oppose it.'

As Laloo Prasad looked like he was getting isolated within the UPA on his call for Modi's ouster, the BJP accused him of being 'callous, indifferent and politically motivated' in his response to the tragedy. BJP spokesperson Arun Jaitley demanded his resignation.

'In the past, railway ministers have resigned or offered to resign owning moral responsibility over the rail accident. Laloo Prasad Yadav's tenure as the railway minister has been marked by a sharp decline in the standards of safety.... The railway has done little to improve its performance.'

Minister of state for home affairs Sriprakash Jaiswal said the report sought from the state government had not landed till this afternoon.

But he made it clear there was no question of sending a fact-finding team to the state till the report was received and examined.

Home ministry officials said they expected the report to come in by tomorrow. 'We shall analyse the report to determine what happened and what should have happened before arriving at a conclusion,' an official said.

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