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Hema Malini to help Lucknow forget sari tragedy

George Iype in Lucknow | April 18, 2004 19:47 IST

The Bharatiya Janata Party is trying hard to ensure that the sari stampede does not dent Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's electoral chances.

Twenty-two women were killed in the stampede, which took place when Vajpayee's point man in Lucknow, Lalji Tandon, was distributing free saris to mark his birthday on April 12.

BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan, who is in charge of the party's campaign in Uttar Pradesh, keeps visiting Lucknow to make sure that nothing goes wrong.

He and the party's UP unit president, Vijay Katiyar, are now completely in charge of Vajpayee's campaign.

According to BJP officials, Mahajan has asked Tandon not to address any more campaign meetings in the name of Vajpayee.

The party is now bringing in Bollywood actress Hema Malini to "entertain voters so that they forget the tragedy", a BJP leader said.

Among others who will campaign in Lucknow are former UP chief ministers Kalyan Singh and Rajnath Singh, and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Katiyar said the tragedy would not affect Vajpayee's chances. "For that matter, it will not have any impact on the BJP votes across Uttar Pradesh," he told

Asked if parties like the Congress would benefit, Katiyar said: "Those who are politicising the tragedy will suffer at the elections."

Meanwhile, a completely marginalized Tandon is preparing his legal defence following the UP government's decision to file a first information report against him as per the Election Commission's order. On Sunday, Tandon, who is receiving help from the BJP, met a number of legal experts.

Law Minister Arun Jaitley is preparing the party's case, which will be presented to the Election Commission. The party had received a show-cause notice from the panel for violation of the model code of conduct.

Jaitley has told Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani that there is no need to fear any legal trouble, as the party did not organise the bash and Tandon was not the PM's polling agent when the tragedy happened.

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