Sonia cancels Rae Bareli rally after BSP government muscle-flexing (Third Lead)

October 14th, 2008 - 1:28 am ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiLucknow, Oct 13 (IANS) Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has cancelled her plans to address a rally and perform a religious ceremony for a rail coach factory in her Rae Bareli constituency Tuesday after the Uttar Pradesh government imposed prohibitory orders in the area late Monday, a party spokesperson said.Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) spokesperson Akhilesh Pratap Singh told IANS that “in view of Chief Minister Mayawati’s directions to disallow the rally, our party president Sonia Gandhi has cancelled her plans to address a rally at Lalganj in Rae Bareli”.

The move follows the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) government imposing prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in Rae Bareli that prevents the gathering of more than five people in the area.

The state government acted swiftly after the Allahabad High Court ordered status quo on a piece of land in Lalganj where Gandhi was to perform Bhoomi Poojan for a rail coach factory.

Additional District Magistrate D.L. Verma, in a statement, said the state government, “using its discretionary powers, has banned any kind of gathering, rally or public address” in Rae Bareli with immediate effect.

According to the UPCC spokesperson, the Congress chief would, however, visit Lalganj to inspect the Lifeline Express Train, a health camp on wheels run by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation to look after the health needs of people in her constituency.

She would also visit some areas of her constituency and meet party workers. However, the proposed Bhoomi Poojan would not be held, Singh said.

The Uttar Pradesh government had Saturday night taken back the 400 acres it had allotted to the Indian Railways for the project.

The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court Monday ordered status quo on the land while hearing a writ of Northern Railway (NR) and a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) of villagers of Rae Bareli. The court has given a week’s time to the state government to file a counter affidavit.

The Northern Railway (NR) moved the high court seeking a stay on the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to withdraw the land. Villagers and farmers of Lalganj also filed a PIL stating that the move of the state government would deprive the region of better development and job opportunities.

A division bench comprising Justice Pradeep Kant and Shabiul Hasnain, while ordering that status quo be maintained, listed the matter for further hearing Oct 22.

“The court has given a week’s time to the state government to file a counter affidavit and 24 hours to the petitioners thereafter to file a rejoinder,” Mohammad Arif Khan, the counsel of the petitioners, told reporters after the hearing.

Earlier, the court also summoned records related to the land and made a specific query regarding cancelling the allotment without giving proper opportunity to the petitioners.

Meanwhile, the state government, through its counsel, told the court that it will not take back possession of the land from the railway.

The railway, a few months ago, had acquired the land after paying compensation of Rs.85 million (Rs.8.5 crore), which the state government Sunday announced it would return.

“The government also stated that it will not initiate proceedings of allotting the land to anyone else or initiate any construction work on the same,” Khan added.

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