Shoe hurled at PM, Manmohan forgives attacker (Roundup)

April 26th, 2009 - 8:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Ahmedabad/New Delhi, April 26 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh became the fourth political leader to be targeted with shoes in this election season even though the white sneaker landed far short of him at a rally in Ahemdabad Sunday.
Though Manmohan Singh asked police not to press charges against the young man, leading political parties condemned the worrying trend that began actually in Iraq when a man hurled his shoes at then US president George Bush last December.

The prime minister was momentarily distracted from his address at the Sanskar Kendra in Paldi locality as one of his Special Protection Group (SPG) personnel ran towards the spot where the shoe had landed - about 20 feet away from the podium.

Manmohan Singh was addressing his first election meeting in Gujarat ahead of the April 30 polling.

Parts of Ahmedabad city come under the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency from where Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani is seeking re-election.

Security personnel soon overpowered the man, identified as Hitesh Chauhan, a city-based computer engineering student in his mid-20s. Police said Chauhan was sitting near the press gallery in the first row when he suddenly took off his right-leg shoe and hurled it in the direction of the prime minister - a protest seen more as symbolic rather than an attempt to hit target.

He was whisked away by police for questioning, a senior crime branch official said, while a party worker quickly removed the sneaker.

Chauhan said he does not belong to any political group, the official added. It was, however, not immediately clear what was the provocation or the issue that the man wanted to protest against but it seems the man was venting against Congress party activists who had allegedly assaulted him.

“Chauhan was questioned at the Ellisbridge police station. There is a procedure being followed for questioning and we would let you know soon the real motives of the student,” a senior crime branch official said.

The prime minister has told police not to press charges against the young man, it was learnt.

On the podium with the prime minister was Gujarat’s Leader of Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil and other senior state-level Congress leaders.

There was no commotion after the shoe was flung and the meeting went on as scheduled with more than 500 people listening to the prime minister who spoke about the achievements of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

This was one more attempt at show-flinging in the Lok Sabha election campaign. Attempts have been made to hurl shoes at Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Congress MP Naveen Jindal and BJP’s Advani.

In New Delhi, spokespersons of the Congress as well as the BJP condemned Sunday’s incident.

“It is absolutely shocking… Modi has to apologise for what has been done to the PM. It is an insult to democracy,” Congress spokesperson M. Veerappa Moily said.

Moily said such incidents are the manifestation of “hate politics” promoted by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Gujarat.

Congress spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Rajiv Shukla described the incident as condemnable and said such incidents should not be given importance.

The BJP also condemned the incident. “We condemn it outright. This is not part of a democratic campaign. We have also condemned what happened with (Home Minister P.) Chidambaram and we are repeating the same in case of the prime minister,” BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told CNN-IBN.

“I am quite sure that police will take appropriate action, which needs to be taken,” he added.

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