Congress, BJP spar over Manmohan, Advani (Roundup)

April 11th, 2009 - 8:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, April 11 (IANS) Five days ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the main rivals, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Saturday exchanged strong words over their respective prime ministerial candidates Manmohan Singh and L.K. Advani.
The Congress asserted that Advani had no issue to raise and that Manmohan Singh had a “brilliant track record” in office, while the BJP reiterated that Manmohan Singh did not have any authority to exercise.

Advani told TV news channel CNN-IBN that Manmohan Singh “holds office but has no authority, while the person who wields the authority has no accountability”, a reference to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

The two parties were also locked in a war of words after Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi called the Congress a “125-year-old budhiya (elderly woman)” at campaign meetings and the Congress demanded an apology for showing disrespect to women and the elderly.

Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan told reporters that this not only “reflects Modi’s mindset” but that of the BJP also since he was the party’s “poster boy”.

Sonia Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka Gandhi took on Modi at a rally in Uttar Pradesh, asking the audience if she, her brother Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi looked old.

Sonia Gandhi led the Congress charge, asserting at a rally in Bihar: “They (the BJP) have no issue. They have no issue at all.” Lashing out at Advani without naming him, she said: “In their time, parliament was attacked, Akshardham temple (in Gujarat) was attacked.

“And then they went and handed over terrorists to Afghanistan,” referring to the BJP-led government freeing three terrorists in exchange for passengers held hostage by hijackers on an Indian plane at Kandahar.

“What have they done for the poor? What have they done for the farmers? Nothing,” she asserted.

“Do they have leaders like Rajiv Gandhi and Indira Gandhi? Do they have a single such leader?” the Congress president asked during a spirited speech. She added that the two assassinated leaders had sacrificed their lives for the country.

Congress spokesperson Natarajan said: “Manmohan Singh has a brilliant track record” while the BJP had little to offer.

Speaking of the prime minister, Advani asserted that he had “voluntarily abdicated authority”. During an interview to CNN-IBN aboard a campaign chopper, he said Manmohan Singh’s weakness as prime minister was “patently” visible and “very clear”.

The BJP leader also claimed that he knew of cases when the prime minister proposed a course of action but “he is not able to implement it unless he gets clearance from the Congress party president”.

The tone for the verbal warfare between the two parties was set uncharacteristically by Manmohan Singh, who Friday said he did not consider Advani to be worthy of a TV debate with him.

Inviting the wrath of the BJP, Manmohan Singh said he did not want to accord Advani the privilege of being “an alternative prime minister”.

The BJP, which termed the prime minister’s remarks a sign of frustration, Saturday once again challenged him to a television debate.

“If there can be debates between legislators and chief ministers, why not between prime ministerial candidates?” party spokesperson Ravi Shanker Prasad asked while speaking to reporters here.

“Why does he not take up the challenge?” Prasad asked, adding that Manmohan Singh’s “running away from a debate gives several indications”.

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