Manmohan, Sonia blast Advani, BJP sues for truce (Roundup)April 15th, 2009 - 8:21 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) On the eve of the first round of balloting, the Congress party’s top leadership went hammer and tongs at L.K. Advani, forcing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to sue for truce and plead for an end to “this ongoing mud-slinging”.
What began with Advani repeatedly taking digs at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by calling him a “weak prime minister” who deferred to Congress president Sonia Gandhi on crucial policy issues, blew into a full-scale war of words with Manmohan Singh finally saying “enough is enough” and he owed it to the people of India to respond to the BJP leader’s barbs.
“Any serious political observer knows my remarks on Advani are true. I owe it to myself and the people of India to show where the shoe pinches. Enough is enough,” the prime minister said at an interaction with members of the Editors’ Guild here.
His reply was in response to a specific question on whether his recent sharp language against Advani was conscious or impulsive and whether a certain bitterness had crept into their relationship.
Manmohan Singh said the reason he held his fire so long was that he had not been named the prime ministerial candidate till recently.
In distant Bidar in Karnataka, Sonia Gandhi added to the Congress fusillade, accusing Advani of making “ulta-seedha (contradictory)” statements and describing him as a “slave of the RSS”.
Gandhi referred to the incident where Advani first described Pakistan’s founder M.A. Jinnah as a secular person and then virtually retracted the statement under pressure from the Sangh Parivar. “What did the strong leader do? He retracted,” she mocked.
The BJP talks of tackling terrorism but people know during whose rule the parliament attack took place and who escorted terrorists as guests to Kandahar, Gandhi said. “We do not scream or shout. We act, work. Because of the determined action our government took, Pakistan had to admit its role in the Mumbai terror attack,” she declared to a cheering rural crowd.
Stung by the twin attacks, the BJP appeared on the defensive. BJP president Rajnath Singh said in Bangalore: “The prime minister should never get personally involved in any kind of smear campaign. I hope that (the) prime minister himself would take an initiative to bring an end to this ongoing mud-slinging in the name of election campaigning.”
“In a healthy democracy launching personal attacks on opposition leaders can never be appreciated,” Rajnath Singh said.
Over the last week, Manmohan Singh’s retorts to Advani had become sharper by the day. The prime minister’s first riposte came at an interaction with about 100 women journalists in the capital where he questioned Advani’s record in government and stated that he would not have a television debate with the BJP leader for he did consider him to be an “alternative prime minister”.
Manmohan Singh also said: “What is the record of Advaniji? He was present at the time when Babri Masjid was demolished. If he was a strong leader, he would have staked his reputation in preventing the carnage.”
In Mumbai on Monday, Manmohan Singh said: “Mr Advani has the unique ability to combine strength in speech with weakness in action… I will not be found weeping in a corner when hoodlums tear down a centuries old mosque.”
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