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EC not to pursue Lucknow saree stampede case

New Delhi | May 13, 2004 18:42 IST

The Election Commission announced it would not pursue the matter of the stampede in Lucknow last month where 22 women were killed at a function distributing free sarees on the occasion of BJP leader Lalji Tandon's birthday, following the BJP's assurance of abiding by the Code. Lucknow is Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Lok Sabha constituency. 

However, the EC also disapproved of the violation of the Model Code of Conduct in the case. In view of the BJP's "full commitment to the compliance of the Model Code of Conduct and the electoral laws in letter and spirit, the Commission does not wish to pursue the matter further, except to state that it strongly disapproves of such violation of the Model Code of Conduct", the EC said in its order.

"The Commission is of the unanimous view that the distribution of sarees to electors on April 12, 2004, when the election process in the Lucknow Parliamentary Constituency had already been set in motion was a violation of the Model Code of Conduct," the order said.

The EC said BJP had said in its reply that it "wishes to categorically state that as a responsible and national political party, the party is fully committed to the compliance of electoral laws in letter and spirit. 

"The party has fully committed itself to ensure that it will fully comply with the Model Code of Conduct. There has never in the past been any violation of the Code of Conduct by the BJP," the party told the EC.

On the basis of reports from Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary and state Chief Electoral Officer into the incident, the Commission was of the prima facie opinion that senior BJP leader Lalji Tandon had violated the Model Code of Conduct by distributing free sarees to the people of the Lucknow Parliamentary constituency, the order said.

Following a notice issued to it, the BJP admitted to Tandon's presence at the function but denied the party had anything to do with the event since it was not an organizer, nor did it have knowledge of the event and that no political speeches were made during the function.

The party also denied that it had violated the Model Code of Conduct and contended that the distribution of sarees by Tandon did not amount to bribery to voters, the order said.

Referring to BJP's contention to equate the free saree distribution function with that of mass feeding by a Congress candidate in the wake of assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the EC pointed out that "the normal celebration of one's birthday which is a routine annual feature cannot be equated or treated at par with the shocking assassination of Rajiv Gandhi during process of election".

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