The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Laloo boycott on BJP plate

Ranchi/New Delhi, April 25: The Opposition has found more fodder in its onslaught against Laloo Prasad Yadav.

A CBI special court today chargesheeted the railway minister in a fodder scam case, prompting the Opposition to add it to the arsenal it has been stockpiling against the railway minister.

Laloo Prasad and 69 others have been charged with siphoning off Rs 37.63 crore from the Chaibasa (now in Jharkhand) treasury when it was in Bihar. The funds were meant for buying fodder for state-run farms.

All the accused, including the railway minister who was present in the Ranchi court, pleaded 'not guilty' after the charges were read out.

The chargesheet came as a face-saver for the BJP, which was in the middle of a damage-control exercise after picking holes in Laloo Prasad's claim that an attempt was made to attack him when he visited a Vadodara hospital on Thursday following the Sabarmati Express accident.

The BJP's effort to dismiss the alleged attack as a 'lie' suffered a setback when a report said its MP from the city, Jayaben Thakkar, had countered the party version. The news report said Thakkar corroborated Laloo Prasad's claim that an object had hit the rear window of the car in which they (the minister and the MP) were seated and the glass caved in and fell on them.

However, Thakkar today issued a clarification which sources said was 'extracted under pressure'. The amended version said that she had already informed the Prime Minister that no stones were pelted at the minister or his car.

The BJP then seized on the fodder case and demanded Laloo Prasad's resignation from the cabinet.

Union law minister H.R. Bhardwaj rejected the demand, saying the railway minister had not been convicted. 'Just because charges have been framed against him, there is no justification for his dismissal,' Bhardwaj added.

The BJP contended that when NDA ministers like Buta Singh, Harin Pathak and S.R. Mutthiah were chargesheeted in various cases, they quit the cabinet.

As part of a two-pronged strategy crafted by the BJP, the heat will be kept up on the minister for 'misleading' Parliament on the 'facts' of the rail accident.

The BJP parliamentary party will meet tomorrow morning to firm up its line of action and decide whether it will allow Parliament to function or not.

Both Houses were repeatedly adjourned today as the Opposition and Laloo Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal hurled abuses at each other.

A senior BJP leader said the party is in the mood to paralyse the House from tomorrow. But Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani are apparently of the view that rather than disrupt the House, they should boycott Laloo Prasad as the then Opposition had done to George Fernandes.

Laloo Prasad today renewed the charge that the RSS, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal had instigated the attack when he visited Vadodara.

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