The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP targets Singh over code

New Delhi, April 2: One PM is in trouble over campaigning in Assam and another could be, if the BJP has its way.

BJP leader Pramod Mahajan has already been booked by the Election Commission for violating the code of conduct while his party, in turn, has petitioned the poll watchdog against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The BJP began to move on reports that the Prime Minister had promised a special economic package while campaigning in Karbi Anglong district, rocked by ethnic violence in the recent past.

“It is a 200 per cent offence,” Mahajan said over phone from Assam. He said the BJP’s state president had called on election officials in Guwahati to inform them of the alleged violation and a high-level party delegation will meet them here tomorrow, when the first phase of polling is to be held.

Earlier in the day, the commission directed the chief electoral officer of Assam to file a case against Mahajan for addressing a news conference in Guwahati after the campaign ended yesterday. The case, filed under the Representation of the People Act, was that holding a press conference amounted to addressing a public meeting, which is banned after campaigning ends.

BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said: “What the Prime Minister has done is shameless. When there was violence in Karbi Anglong, we had demanded that the victims should be adequately compensated. Now, the Prime Minister is doing it for a political purpose. His reported statements are untenable and a violation of the code of conduct.”

The Prime Minister’s Office dismissed the allegation, saying: “There was no announcement. A group from Karbi Anglong called on the Prime Minister and gave a memorandum, asking for financial relief (for the victims). That was all. The Prime Minister did not make an announcement.”

The Karbi Anglong hill council had demanded a Rs 602 crore rehabilitation package for those affected by the violence. Reports from there quoted the Prime Minister as responding: “Hum is par vichar karenge (We will consider it).”

Whether that represents violation of the code the commission will decide, but V. Satish, in charge of the Northeast for the BJP, said: “This, we think, amounts to violation of the code of conduct.” Tom Vadakkan, the Congress secretary (media), reacted by saying: “We are waiting for the contents (of the speech).

Singh campaigned for two days in Assam ' a record by his standards ' because he was elected to the Rajya Sabha from the state.

Mahajan has pleaded innocent to the charge of code violation. “To the best of my knowledge, I have not violated any section of any law.”

The news conference, he argued, was a “general” one and could not be termed campaigning “by any stretch of the imagination”.

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