Bihar's trio brings down magic number

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By ASHISH SINHA in Patna
  • Published 12.05.04
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Patna, May 12: D-Day will come and go, but their wait will not be over.

With fresh polls ordered in Bettiah and Siwan on May 24 and elections in Chhapra countermanded, voters of these three Bihar constituencies will have to press afresh the buttons of their choice.

As of now, thus, the trio has contributed to bringing down the magic figure from 272.

Bettiah and Siwan will not be sending their representatives to the 14th Lok Sabha before the end of this month. As for the people of Chhapra, they would have to wait till early June to have their representative in Parliament.

The BJP represented two of these seats — Chhapra by Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Bettiah by Madan Prasad Jaiswal — in the last Lok Sabha, while electors of Siwan had returned the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Mohammad Shahabuddin.

Siwan is understood to be a “sure” case for Shahabuddin despite the Election Commission’s repoll order in 193 booths. But Bettiah, where fresh polls will be held in 429 booths the same day, is said to be “back in the contest”. Chhapra — where Rudy is locked in a fight with RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav — will see total repoll on May 31.

The commission’s decision was based mainly on complaints of rigging and violence by RJD candidates and their supporters in all the three constituencies.

“The most vocal opposition to the repoll order has come from the RJD. On the face of it, the party led by Laloo Prasad maintains that it is protesting in the interest of democracy and transparency. But the desperation underlying their protest appears strange. If the RJD wants to be the flag-bearer of democracy in Bihar, it should be ready to respect the decision of the game’s arbiter, the Election Commission,” a senior BJP leader said.

RJD leaders said they were not “at all scared” by the repoll orders.

“We are confident of winning all three seats. There is nothing to fear. We have not opposed the Election Commission’s decision per se. We have made a point on grounds of democratic principles,” senior RJD minister Shakeel Ahmad Khan said.

RJD sources said the party’s main worry was that in case the verdict in Madhepura, the other seat Laloo Prasad is contesting, went against the former chief minister, it could impact the outcome of the total repoll in Chhapra.

Laloo Prasad is said to be keen to be in Madhepura during tomorrow’s counting.

“Laloo Prasad cannot afford to lose both the seats. The stakes are very high because the RJD chief cannot live happily with the image of a fallen hero at a time when a non-NDA government at the Centre seems to be a possibility,” the sources added.