Campaign heats up in tandem with mercury (Political Roundup)

April 20th, 2009 - 8:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, April 20 (IANS) The political temperature rose in tandem with the mercury Monday, three days before round two of India’s general elections. The Congress came under attack from the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) while Congress leaders continued to target Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani.
There was some relief for the Congress as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi retracted his Sunday’s statement and said the LTTE was a terrorist outfit after all. His statement the previous day that LTTE boss V. Prabhakaran was his friend had reopened old wounds in the Congress.

“They did not start off as a terrorist group,” Karunanidhi said Monday in Chennai. “They began as a liberation group but it has now become a terrorist organisation.”

“We have not forgotten Sriperumbudur,” he added, referring to the small town near Chennai where a LTTE suicide bomber assassinated former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi at an election rally in May 1991. The Congress had earlier expressed dismay at Karunanidhi’s comments Sunday.

But that was the only relief for the Congress, which leads the now ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), as another UPA ally, LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan accused the party of being responsible for the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992.

Last week, another UPA ally, Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), had said the Congress had to take the blame along with the BJP for the demolition of the Babri Masjid which led to widespread communal riots.

“What wrong has he (Lalu Prasad) said?” Paswan asked at a poll rally in his Hajipur constituency in Bihar.

He took potshots at the Congress, stating it had fielded a candidate against him in Hajipur “when they know that they cannot garner even 2,000 votes. What are they trying to prove?”

The Congress reacted with its spokesman Rajiv Shukla telling reporters here that “by attacking the Congress, he (Lalu Prasad) is strengthening communal forces. All his allegations against the Congress are wrong.”

Elsewhere on the campaign trail, Congress president Sonia Gandhi in Maharashtra and general secretary Rahul Gandhi in Assam repeated their charge that Advani was trying to evade responsibility for the handover of three terrorists during the 1999 hijack of an Indian airliner to Kandahar in Afghanistan. Advani was the home minister at the time.

BJP president Rajnath Singh responded by saying at a poll rally in Lucknow that the “central government’s inordinate delay in carrying out the death sentence awarded to (2001) parliament terror attack convict Afzal Guru showed the real face of the Congress”.

The BJP also resumed its attack on new Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Navin Chawla by saying it wanted to know exactly what outgoing CEC N. Golapalswami had said against him last year, but the government had stonewalled its queries. The BJP has earlier accused Chawla of being partisan towards the Congress.

As Sonia Gandhi kept up her gruelling campaign schedule, she said in Orissa that the state’s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) was as responsible as the BJP for last year’s communal riots in Kandhamal district which killed 38 people, mostly Christians. The BJD and the BJP were in alliance at that time.

In a poll where each seat is looking increasingly important as a hung parliament appears in the offing, an intra-party squabble in the Congress came out in the open. Its Public Works Department Minister Churchill Alemao in Goa, angry over denial of ticket to his daughter Valanka, stood up at a poll rally and called the party leaders and its South Goa candidate “dishonest”.

“If you cannot honour a written agreement to give ticket to Valanka, how can the party be trusted?” Alemao told a rally at Navelim Sunday evening in the presence of an embarrassed South Goa Congress candidate Francisco Sardinha, Goa Congress unit president Subhash Shirodkar and Chief Minister Digambar Kamat.

In the second of the five-phase elections, voting will take place in 140 constituencies April 23, while it has been scheduled for Wednesday for one seat in Manipur in North-East.

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