Congress attack gets the Modi edge after court order (Political Roundup, Reissuing with corrections in intro)

April 27th, 2009 - 10:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Narendra Modi New Delhi, April 27 (IANS) Two days ahead of the third round of general elections, political knives were again sharpened Monday as the Supreme Court asked for a probe into Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s role in the 2002 riots in the state, an event the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its prime minister-in-waiting have found it hard to live down.
As the Gujarat riots, in which 1,180 people, mostly Muslims, were killed, came to occupy political centrestage again, the Congress got the leverage it was looking for.

“It is a slap on the face of a constitutional functionary, we are not at all surprised. Modi will not be apologetic, he will not resign and nor will he start feeling that anything went wrong in his state,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.

And then, giving voice to the speculation about Modi’s ascendancy in the BJP, the Congress launched a sharp attack against the 81-year-old Advani saying he was a “mukhota” (mask) for the Gujarat chief minister.

“The question arises, has Advani been indirectly shown the door? Is Advani no more or less than a mukhota, a convenient front, a face and a mask for Modi.”

Referring to the recent projection of Modi as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate by Arun Shourie and Arun Jaitley, Singhvi went on to say: “This ‘majboor’ neta is a scared neta because has to rely on a supporting stick or crutch of Modi… He (Modi) has shown Advani the door.”

The BJP appeared to be on the back foot.

While a grim-faced Modi refused to reply to persistent questions by a TV reporter on whether he had anything to say or would apologise, Jaitley said: “On the eve of every election, there is a court case filed against Narendra Modi. It has become a convention for the last 10 years.”

The apex court has particularly sought probe into allegations of his involvement in the killing of Congress MP Ehsan Jafri in Ahmedabad’s Gulberg area where 64 people were killed.

As her lieutenants handled the crisis in New Delhi, party chief Sonia Gandhi shared a platform with Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee for the first time since 2001 and launched a blistering attack on the Left Front at Lalgola in West Bengal.

Expressing happiness that “Mamata is again with us”, she accused the Left Front government of “running a dictatorship” and lambasted its failure to “improve the lot of the minorities” and the poor.

Addressing the meeting for External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is contesting from the district’s Jangipur constituency, Sonia Gandhi charged the Left Front with running a dictatorship in the name of democracy.

Referring to the Left’s withdrawal of support to the UPA government over the India-US civilian nuclear deal, Sonia Gandhi said: “We had signed the deal only to bring electricity to your homes.”

The Left also hit back.

Left Front chairperson Biman Bose criticised Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s comparison of Purulia district in the state with Orissa’s Kalahandi region, once notorious for starvation deaths.

“Purulia is better than Kalahandi, it is even better than Amethi (Rahul Gandhi’s constituency),” Bose said at a press meet in the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) headquarters in Kolkata in the presence of all other Left Front allies.

Up north, Rahul Gandhi told a rally in Anantnag town of Jammu and Kashmir that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) practises “politics of division and anger” while the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) stands for “love, friendship and future”.

“I have not come here today as a politician, but as a young man who extends his hand of friendship to the youth of Kashmir. Your vote this time is not for the National Conference or the People’s Democratic Party. It is for the (Congress-led) UPA or the NDA,” Rahul said.

Taking up the Advani vs Manmohan Singh theme, he said: “You have to choose whether you want Manmohan Singh to be the next prime minister of the country or (L.K.) Advani. The choice is clear.”

He later flew to Uttar Pradesh, a Congress bastion a long time ago, and shared the dais for the first time with his sister Priyanka during a party meeting held at Barabanki, on Lucknow’s outskirts.

There, he hit out at the opposition for criticising his visits to the homes of poor villagers and tribals and specifically targeted the BJP for its “India Shining” campaign in 2004.

And in south, the issue of the Tamil refugees in Sri Lanka found its own resonance in Tamil Nadu with Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi beginning a hunger strike and ending it soon after when Colombo said it was ending “combat operations” against the Tamil Tigers.

His rival, AIADMK chief and former chief minister Jayalalitha reiterated her demand for a Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.

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