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|November 25, 1998||
200 suffer food poisoning in Sushma Swaraj's constituency; Congress demands repoll
More than 200 people, mostly children, were taken ill after eating salted snacks ( namkeens) which were distributed by unidentified people in a jhuggi cluster in Chief Minister Sushma Swaraj's constituency before polling began this morning.
The people were admitted to the nearby All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Safdarjung hospitals, and most of them, except 20 adults and ten children, who were kept under observation, were out of danger.
The chief minister, who visited the affected Gautam Nagar area, blamed Congress workers for being behind the mischief in a bid to ''malign'' her.
Swaraj said she had spoken to Lieutenant Governor Vijai Kapoor regarding an inquiry into the incident.
Three people have been named in the incident but all of them are absconding. The police have launched a manhunt to nab them. Their political affiliations are not known.
The chief minister, who is pitted against Congress candidate Kiran Walia in the Hauz Khas constituency, said she had ordered the health secretary to take all necessary measures.
The Super Bazaar at the AIIMS which was closed because of polling, was opened to provide glucose. Senior doctors were summoned to the AIIMS where resident doctors are on strike.
A case has been registered at the Defence Colony police station and the police have taken the samples of the snacks for forensic tests.
An AIIMS spokesman said the first case was reported at about 0930 hours when a man, Giriraj, came to the hospital with complaints of food poisoning. He was followed by at least 60 people, including women and children. At 1030 hours the hospital had to stop registering patients and many were sent to Safdarjung Hospital.
While the youngest victim was a nine-month-old child, the oldest was about 87.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and DPCC president Shiela Dixit visited the area.
Swaraj claimed that the Congress had got six BJP workers arrested after the incident took place and it was all a conspiracy against her party. She alleged that the food poisoning was carried out to prevent voters from reaching booths.
An eyewitness, Omwati, whose two daughters and a brother in law were among the victims, said the packets of snacks were distributed by somebody who came in a van just around the time when polling was to begin.
Meanwhile, Kiran Walia, the Congress candidate, has demanded a repoll in the Hauz Khas assembly constituency and called for a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the incident.
Talking to the media, Congress spokesperson Ambika Soni and Dixit said the party has also lodged a complaint with the Election Commission, demanding a repoll in the entire constituency since a large number of voters could not exercise their franchise.
Dixit also demanded a full-fledged inquiry and the immediate arrest of culprits involved in the incident.
The polling in the constituency should be held only after the inquiry is conducted and the mystery unravelled about the incident, Soni said.
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