Congress attacks Communists in Bengal; BJP remains defensive over Kandahar (Political Roundup)

April 24th, 2009 - 8:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Rahul Gandhi New Delhi, April 24 (IANS) A day after nearly half of the country’s 714 million electorate finished voting in the first two phases, there was no let-up in the political tempo Friday. The Congress attacked the Communists in West Bengal despite holding out hope they could still do business at the national level, while the BJP tried to set the record straight on the Kandahar issue haunting its leadership in the election campaign.
Addressing a series of meeting in West Bengal’s Bankura and Purulia - both of which are hotspots of Maoist activities - Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi launched a scathing attack on the state’s ruling Communists, accusing them of failing to provide basic amenities and of being buried in the past.

“The Communist government says it works for the poor. We send money for rojgar yojna (employment scheme), education, health, but that money does not reach the poor,” Gandhi told a rally in Bankura, 210 km from Kolkata.

“This happens every year. We send money, half of it reaches you, the rest doesn’t. What type of a Communist government is this which doesn’t help the poor?” he asked.

Just last week Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made overtures to the Left parties that an alliance with them after the elections was still possible. He regretted having to part ways with the Left on the India-US nuclear deal, saying there was broad agreement with the Left on most other policy issues.

But the Left parties stuck to their stand, saying they would have no tie-up with the Congress. Rejecting offers from two Congress allies, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat reiterated his party’s position that it will not abandon its allies after polls.

“Don’t try to isolate the Left from our allies. We will not abandon our allies. We are for a non-Congress, secular government after the elections,” asserted Karat.

He was asked if his party was under pressure after Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) president Ram Vilas Paswan said there was a possibility of a post-poll alliance with the Left parties if their United Progressive Alliance (UPA) falls short of majority.

Criticising Left parties for withdrawing support to the Congress-led government on the India-US civilian nuclear deal last year, Rahul Gandhi said: “We told them we need the deal for the county’s future… for fulfilling our huge needs for electricity in future… They said no.”

The 1999 Kandahar hijacking, which hangs like a political albatross around the BJP’s neck, was back in the news with the party claiming that its leader Jaswant Singh had set the record straight with his disclosure that then home minister L.K. Advani had opposed the move to free terrorists, and the Congress saying the timing was suspicious.

“Jaswant Singh needs to explain the fact that why he maintain a studied silence on the issue for 10 years. What forced him to share his insight into the hijacking episode now? The people of the country realise that it a clear case of political expediency and the only aim is to portray the prime ministerial candidate (as Advani is now) in a favourable light,” said senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal.

The issue has been the focus of bitter wrangling between the Congress and the BJP. Congress leaders have been targeting Advani for the then National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s decision to release three terrorists in exchange for the hostages of IC-814 taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan.

Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been exceptionally belligerent, saying that the BJP’s ‘Iron Man’ Advani had “melted” during the Kandahar hijack.

“Basically the controversy has been unnecessarily created by the Congress party. Jaswant Singh has put the record straight and raised a pertinent question that a situation like this can be faced by any government,” said Siddharth Singh, BJP spokesperson.

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