The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Govt disowns Laloo attack on poll panel

New Delhi, May 9: Laloo Prasad Yadav kept up his attack on the election commissioners but the government today officially distanced itself from his demand for their resignation, speaking up for upholding the dignity of constitutional authorities.

Law minister H.R. Bhardwaj disapproved of the action of senior IAS officer L.V. Saptharishi in hurling charges of bias against election commissioners B.B. Tandon and N. Gopalaswamy.

'As far as the controversy (triggered by Saptharishi) is concerned, I am not in favour of challenging the integrity of such long-serving election officers... (and) it is not proper for civil servants to criticise constitutional authorities. They come under a certain discipline and they should adhere to that discipline,' he said.

But new fronts in the battle opened today with Laloo Prasad meeting United Progressive Alliance head Sonia Gandhi and the three election commissioners led by outgoing chief T.S. Krishnamurthy trooping to Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Election Commission sources said a report containing the response to Saptharishi’s allegation was handed to the President. Saptharishi has said he has written a letter to the law ministry, charging Tandon and Gopalaswamy with acting at the behest of the BJP and countermanding election at Chhapra, where Laloo Prasad was contesting, last year.

'I am still demanding and suggesting to Tandon and Gopalaswamy, you please resign, please leave your posts. But I am not going to approach the law minister or the Prime Minister,' Laloo Prasad said.

Bhardwaj denied having received any letter from Saptharishi and said even if there was one, it was an improper act on the part of the civil servant.

Saptharishi was an observer at the May 10, 2004, Chhapra election, but has made the charges now in a letter he purportedly wrote last week, alleging caste bias among election commissioners, when Tandon is days away from taking over from Krishnamurthy, who steps down on May 16.

'I have no such letter. I cannot tell you if there is any other minister under whom he is working and he has that letter. He (that minister) can certainly call for his (Saptharishi’s) explanation.'

Approaching retirement, Saptharishi is director general of the Council for People’s Advancement and Rural Technology under the rural development ministry headed by Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, who belongs to Laloo Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal.

Even Singh said he had not received any letter from Saptharishi but had come to know of it from media reports.

BJP spokesman Arun Jaitley accused Singh of striking a deal with Saptharishi that if he levelled such an allegation, he would get an extension. Singh denied the charge, saying there was no move to give Saptharishi extension after July.

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