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Saris weren't ours: BJP

BJP is ready to take on the EC on the Lucknow stampede issue, even though many BJP leaders see it as a major setback for the party.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 23, 2004 10:19 AM IST

The BJP is ready to take on the Election Commission (EC) over its show-cause notice on the Lucknow sari stampede, even though many BJP leaders see it as a major setback for the party's campaign.

The party is trying to wash its hands off the April 12 incident and questioning the EC's argument that the distribution of saris on UP leader Lalji Tandon's birthday prima facie breached the model code of conduct.

It has also come out in defence of Tandon, though he had to resign as convener of Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee's election management committee following the incident. The EC has ordered the UP government to register a case of bribery and illegal gratification against Tandon.

The EC has not responded but is expected to examine the BJP's contentions before deciding on the next course of action.

In exercising the notice, the EC exercised powers under Section 16A of the Election Symbol (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, which allows it to freeze a party's election symbol or even derecognise it as a national party for violating the code or its orders.

In its seven-page reply submitted on Thursday by a BJP delegation led by general secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the party said it did not organise the event and had no connection with it. It also said no BJP functionary was involved in it and no information was given to the party about the event. The reply also said no one had canvassed for the BJP at the function.

It cited a 1991 order of the Karnataka High Court, later upheld by the Supreme Court, that mass-feeding in Congress leader C.K. Jaffer Sharief's constituency on the occasion of the immersion of Rajiv Gandhi's ashes, while the election process was on, did not constitute canvassing for votes.

The party also said this was not the first time such an event had been organised to mark Tandon's birthday and no code could stop personal celebrations.

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