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Jaya splits hair on Sonia letter

Chennai, Aug. 31: Jayalalithaa today issued a rejoinder to Congress spokesman Jaipal Reddy’s letter exposé, denying that she had supported Sonia Gandhi’s candidature for the Prime Minister’s post in 1999, and again accused the Congress president of blocking Jyoti Basu’s ascension.

The ADMK’s support, as spelt out in the letter to the then President, was only “to a government to be formed by the Congress led by Sonia Gandhi”. Sonia’s name was only a description to identify who led the Congress at that time, Jayalalithaa said in Chennai.

“Any thinking individual would well understand that what is meant here in unambiguous terms is that the ADMK would extend support to a government to be formed by the Congress at the Centre,” she said, asserting that there was nothing to be embarrassed by the so-called letter exposé.

“Nowhere in my letter have I stated that the ADMK desired that Sonia Gandhi should be the Prime Minister or that the ADMK would support Sonia Gandhi to become the Prime Minister,” the Tamil Nadu chief minister said.

It has been customary to refer to parties by the name of the person who leads the party, like the Janata Dal group led by H.D. Deve Gowda or the Janata Dal group led by Ramakrishna Hegde, she pointed out.

Jayalalithaa contended that “support to any of the groups by a political party cannot be read as being synonymous with accepting its leader as the prime ministerial candidate.” Alluding to Sonia was only a means of identifying her party, she emphasised.

“I have been very careful in my choice of words and extremely precise in what my party wanted to convey at that point of time. At no point of time have I said anywhere that I will support her (Sonia’s) candidature for the prime ministership,” she said.

The ADMK chief accused the Congress of “misleading the nation by deliberately misinterpreting my letter”, and said her party had given that letter to prevent another general election as it would mean unnecessary expenditure and instability.

Jayalalithaa reiterated that she had proposed CPM leader Jyoti Basu’s name for the top job and had “exerted every nerve to bring about a general consensus among other like-minded Opposition parties and lobbied hard to promote Basu as the prime ministerial candidate”.

She claimed that the communist parties, the Forward Bloc, the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal had agreed to her suggestion. But to her dismay, Jayalalithaa said, she could not prevail upon Sonia to accept Basu’s candidature and her efforts to build a consensus were scuttled by the Congress leader.

“This I strongly believe was because she (Sonia) could not digest the fact that an Indian would become the Prime Minister of India when she thought she was ahead in the race and imagined that her foreign origin and connections made her a superior candidate,” the ADMK chief said.

, adding that her stand that only an Indian should become the Prime Minister was vindicated by this episode.

Jayalalithaa also took strong exception to the Congress spokesman linking her recent statements in Delhi to an attempt to “free myself from all cases pending against me”. This deserves to be condemned as it amounted to contempt of the Supreme Court and denigration of the judiciary, she added.

India deserved someone better than the likes of Sonia to lead it as Prime Minister, Jayalalithaa said and reasserted her stance that it was a “crying shame” and an indicator of the Congress’ “moral bankruptcy” to project a foreigner as the prime ministerial candidate.

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