Barbs galore as countdown to Election 2009 begins (Political Roundup)

April 13th, 2009 - 7:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, April 13 (IANS) Election week got off to a high decibel start Monday with top leaders of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and L.K. Advani — at the vanguard of the escalating rhetoric three days before polls begin.
The Kandahar hijacking of December 1999, when the BJP government had released three terrorists in exchange for the release of hostages of IC-814, and Manmohan Singh’s “weakness” were in focus as the two main parties trained their guns on each other all over the country. The first of five phases of polling begins Thursday.

Launching a sharp broadside against Manmohan Singh, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Advani said in Thiruvananthapuram: “He has proved to be the weakest prime minister particularly for devaluing the high office because there can be no executive superior.”

His colleague Arun Jaitley said in Agra that the Congress leader was “frustrated” and “weak”.

Addressing a press conference in Mumbai, the prime minister put up a stout defence, saying that loud speaking was no indication of strength and Advani could not get away with “false accusations” by repeatedly calling him weak.

“Weakness or strength does not come from loud speaking. It comes from your capacity to react on time.

“Day after day, he keeps on saying that I am weak. Recently I have been answering that question how weak I am, how strong I am.”

Referring to the release of the three terrorists, he said one of them (Masood Azhar) later founded the Jaish-e-Mohammed.

“By contrast… we did not negotiate with terrorists” after the terror attacks in Mumbai, he said, adding that “our commandos did us proud”. “That is the difference between us and the BJP.”

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, campaigning in the northeast, echoed his view.

“Advani is answerable to the country for releasing Masood Azhar. This is the same man indulging in terror against India,” she said in Silchar, Assam.

Earlier in the day, Advani had said Sonia Gandhi should apologise for her statement that there was a greater risk from parties within the country than from terrorists, saying that it was intended as a “slander” to the BJP.

“Her statement is slander and she should apologise or join a debate on where does the danger come - from the BJP or the jihadis, Al Qaeda or ISI. Maybe she is ignorant of previous Congress leaders,” said Advani.

Sonia Gandhi’s children Rahul, who represents Amethi in the Lok Sabha, and Priyanka lashed out at Advani too.

Without naming Advani, Rahul said in Kochi: “His (Manmohan Singh) opposition is a person of the past… They only speak of what we did. There is no statement coming there about the next five years… what they intend to do, 1, 2, 3.”

He, too, took up the Kandahar issue to say he and the youth of the country wished to know why Advani said that he was not aware of (then foreign minister) Jaswant Singh going to Kandahar with freed terrorists.

“The gentleman who was released later attacked parliament and there could be only two possibilities… Advani has to answer this.”

And sister Priyanka took off on his age saying, both Advani and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had misconceptions about their own age and that’s why they thought Rahul Gandhi to be a novice.

With round one of Elections 2009 kicking off Thursday, the rhetoric is about to get louder.

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