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BJP grabs murder gun

New Delhi, Aug. 28: After two weeks of being bombarded with scams and sleaze, there was respite for the BJP today from three fronts: the Congress, Jayalalithaa and the Supreme Court.

For the beleaguered party, the murder of Delhi Congress councillor Atma Ram Gupta — by hitmen hired by his jilted lover Sharda Jain — provided the perfect foil to the campaign the Congress had threatened to build around Pramod Mahajan’s alleged hand in journalist Shivani Bhatnagar’s killing.

Going on the front foot at a news conference, BJP spokesman Arun Jaitley said: “The glass house in which the Congress is living is not only cracking up but broken into pieces. It is not a stray individual but almost a galaxy of its leadership that is involved in the latest incident. Three elected members of a municipal corporation are involved in something which leaves Indian society seriously concerned about the quality of people entering public life.”

A section of the BJP was unhappy with the Congress response to the Shivani murder. They felt that while other Opposition parties had been either silent or supportive of Mahajan, the Congress had laid siege on him.

Jaitley’s swipe at Congress boss Sonia Gandhi coincided with Jayalalithaa’s suo motu assertion that she should not become Prime Minister because she was a “foreigner”. This perked up the BJP but Jaitley reacted cautiously: “We would like a larger consensus on the subject before any further action is taken,” he said.

Though the NDA manifesto had said no person of “foreign” origin should occupy a constitutional office, the Supreme Court ruling on Sonia being a bona fide Indian citizen had put the brakes on the BJP campaign.

The BJP was happy Jayalalithaa had raked up the issue: it helped at a time Sonia’s popularity ratings had gone up according to a recent opinion poll; it ensured the Congress and the ADMK would not come together; and the NDA would have both Dravidian parties in its clasp.

The court judgment on the petrol pump allotments also came as a boost to the BJP. Its rank and file had been upset with the Centre’s cancellation order though its leaders sought to retrieve the high moral ground. “The court ruling has helped us: it has proved that we are still a party with a difference because no other government would have reacted as swiftly as ours. But the court’s order will keep our allottees happy,” sources said.

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