After first phase, campaign focuses on money (Political Roundup)

April 17th, 2009 - 9:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) With the first round of balloting accounting for 124 of the 543 seats over, the shrill campaign rhetoric, that had even turned personal, subsided considerably Friday with the attention shifting to spending of government funds and spiriting away of black money abroad.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi asked the people of Uttar Pradesh to find what the state government had done with central funds. Her son and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi did the same in Karnataka, while Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani promised to get back all the black money stashed abroad, a major campaign plank of the party.

Speaking in Domariaganj, Uttar Pradesh, Sonia Gandhi said: “The state government (run by the Bahujan Samaj Party of Mayawati) is not using properly the funds being released by the central government. So, you must ask the state government where it has spent the central funds meant for carrying out developmental schemes in the state…

“If you give our party a second term, we would be in a position to take our development schemes on a larger scale to help people across the country.”

Echoing his mother in Gulbarga, north Karnataka, a state run by the BJP, Rahul Gandhi said: “Thousands of crores of rupees have been given to Karnataka by the central government but the money has not reached the intended beneficiaries.

“Yesterday (Thursday) I was in Andhra Pradesh (which borders Karnataka). There is a Congress government and central funds have been properly utilised.” While in Andhra Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi prayed at the famous Lord Venkateshwara temple at Tirupati at midnight.

Having addressed over 40 campaign rallies so far, Rahul Gandhi is gradually emerging as one of the principal campaigners for the Congress. His scheduled visit to Madhya Pradesh’s Maoist-affected Balaghat district had to be called off after an intelligence warning that his life could be in danger, said party sources.

Advani, the prime ministerial candidate of the opposition National Democratic Alliance led by the BJP, addressed a press conference in Mumbai, where he focussed on the issue of illegal wealth stashed abroad by rich and influential Indians, saying the money could be used to fund terrorism, and promising that a NDA government would bring back the money from Swiss and other banks within 100 days.

Advani said the party had set up a special task force to ascertain how much money was deposited in foreign banks.

“The four-member task force has already submitted its interim report. Not just the Swiss banks, there are around 70 tax havens worldwide which are used to stash slush monies,” Advani said, using the country’s commercial capital to highlight the party’s stance on black money.

There was even a small new note of consonance between the Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) - both said they preferred the parliamentary system of democracy to the presidential system, which they said had been advocated by the BJP.

In Agartala, Congress leader and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said: “We strongly oppose the BJP’s proposal of presidential form of governance. The Congress has always been in favour of parliamentary system of democracy and we are working to further strengthen the system.”

That statement, made late Thursday night, echoed what CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat had said in Kolkata earlier this week. He had said a presidential system of governance would be “authoritarian”.

But Mukherjee discounted the chances of the Third Front (led by the Left parties) to form the next government at the centre. “After the elections, a telescope would be required to find out the strength of the Left parties’ MPs in the Lok Sabha,” he sneered.

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