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Has stampede brought BJP, SP closer?
Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow |
April 14, 2004 08:39 IST
Instead of criticising one another over the death of 22 persons in Monday's stampede in Lucknow, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's parliamentary constituency, the ruling Samajwadi Party and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party seem to have closed ranks over the incident.
Naturally, there is speculation about some kind of an 'underhand deal' between the two sworn political foes and the Congress, a partner in the coalition government in Uttar Pradesh, is crying foul.
The stampede occurred when Vajpayee's campaign manager and former UP minister, Lalji Tandon, was distributing sarees to mark his birthday.
After coming to know of the incident, Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, who was in eastern UP campaigning for the Lok Sabha polls, rushed to Lucknow.
To everyone's surprise, instead of driving straight to the hospital where the injured were being treated, Yadav went to Tandon's house first.
The chief minister has since given a clean chit to Tandon by describing the incident as an 'unforeseen tragedy'. He announced compensation for the kin of the victims and for those injured, and also suspended an inspector.
Tandon was equally magnanimous, unwilling to blame Yadav's administration for the tragedy.
Congress general secretary Mohsina Kidwai, who rushed to Lucknow and met the families of the victims, held both Yadav and Tandon responsible for the deaths.
"Mulayam and Tandon are busy trying to save each other's skin. Both seem to weigh the lives of poor people only in terms of money. No wonder they have done precious little beyond announcing financial relief to the families of the victims," state Congress spokesman Akhilesh Pratap Singh told rediff.com.
The Congress party has sought action against all those responsible for the tragedy, including Tandon.
Vajpayee's high profile opponent in election, Ram Jethmalani, sees in the incident a serious violation of the Election Commission's model code of conduct.
"This tragedy cannot be treated as any other calamity, as the BJP and Samajwadi Party want us to. It is a serious matter and the guilty must pay for it," the former law minister in Vajpayee's cabinet told mediapersons in Lucknow.
Meanwhile, the venue of the incident, in Lucknow's posh Mahanagar locality, remains cordoned off.
Witnesses from the neighbourhood pointedly blamed the tragedy on 'utter mismanagement'. "What else could you expect when a 12-feet gate is the only passage left for both entry and exit to thousands of people gathered in a small triangular park," a shopkeeper told rediff.com.