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Stampede aftermath: BJP sacks Lalji Tandon
April 14, 2004 18:57 IST
Last Updated: April 15, 2004 02:00 IST
The Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday sacked Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's election campaign manager after 21 women and a child were killed in a stampede at a function to mark his birthday.
S S Ahluwalia will replace Lalji Tandon, who was Vajpayee's pointman in Lucknow, a BJP spokesman said.
Witnesses said the stampede was caused when organisers of the function threw sarees into the approximately 5,000-strong crowd of poor women crammed into a small park.
The tragedy could not have come at a worse time for the BJP, which is hoping to improve on its 1999 performance when it won just 29 of the 81 seats in the state.
Vajpayee on Wednesday bemoaned the stampede. "It is a great tragedy, we are mourning it, but elections cannot wait," he told reporters in Bangalore.
"Every year, saris have been distributed there. This time something happened and it is unfortunate," he said.
He will file his nomination papers in Lucknow on Thursday in a low-key ceremony and later address party workers, the BJP spokesman said.
The opposition Congress party has slammed the BJP for organising the saree distribution function, which it claims violates the Model Code of Conduct.
Newspapers on Wednesday commented on the tragedy in their editorials.
"Can India really be shining if the distribution of sarees costing Rs 40 provokes so much greed and frenzy that a resulting stampede leaves 22 people dead?" asked the Hindustan Times referring to the NDA government's 'Indian Shining' campaign showcasing India's economic and other developments. "No woman who risks her life for a cheap saree can be feeling very good," the paper said.