PM targets Advani again, BJP calls for stopping ‘mud-slinging’ (Second Lead)

April 15th, 2009 - 6:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi/Bangalore, April 15 (IANS) As an aggressive Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday said the decision to hit out at the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani was a conscious one, the BJP asked him to put an end to the “mud slinging” in the name of election campaign.
“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,” Manmohan Singh asserted at an interaction with members of the Editors’ Guild in New Delhi on the eve of the first phase of general elections.

His reply was in response to a specific question on whether his recent strong remarks against Advani was a conscious decision or an impulsive reaction 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.

His latest remarks prompted the BJP to urge him to refrain from the “smear campaign”.

“The prime minister should never get personally involved in any kind of smear campaign. I hope that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself would take an initiative to bring an end to this ongoing mud-slinging in the name of election campaigning,” BJP president Rajnath Singh said in Bangalore.

“In a healthy democracy launching personal attacks on opposition leaders can never be appreciated. It is the moral obligation of the opposition parties to exercise their right to constructive criticism of the incumbent government,” Rajnath Singh said.

“If the opposition parties criticise the prime minister for his actions, then instead of the prime minister defending himself, his party should come forward to defend him,” the BJP president added.

Over the last week, Manmohan Singh has used sharp words to target Advani, who had repeatedly taunted him for being a “weak” prime minister, for “devaluing” the office of prime minister by allegedly deferring on important policy matters to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and not agreeing to a TV debate with him.

The prime minister’s first riposte came at an interaction with about 100 women journalists in the capital where he tore into Advani’s record as home minister when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was in power.

“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.”

He then pointed out that the BJP-led government had its foreign minister escorting three terrorists to Kandahar for release of hostages after a plane hijack in 1999. Manmohan Singh also referred to the 2002 Gujarat riots which took place when Advani was the union home minister.

While admitting that he may not be as good a speaker as Advani, the prime minister averred that he never shied away from tough decisions.

However, Manmohan Singh reserved his best for Advani at a press conference in Mumbai Monday.

“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,” he said.

“Weakness or strength does not come from loud speaking. It comes from your capacity to react on time,” Manmohan Singh said at the conference.

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