New Delhi, Nov. 28: Desperate to hold on to Gujarat, the BJP has resurrected the ghost of Osama bin Laden to beat the Congress campaign plank of “water, electricity, good roads” and “employment”.
For the BJP, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s trip to London to deliver a lecture at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies on November 30 has come as a godsend. The party claims the centre, an associated institute of the University of Oxford, has links with the al Qaida chief and said it would definitely make it an election issue to “expose” its main rival’s anti-national approach.
Sonia, who would join the ranks of international figures like Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan who have delivered lectures at the centre in the past, left for London today.
BJP leaders knew of Sonia’s trip but kept quiet till she left, lest the Congress had a rethink. BJP spokesperson Arun Jaitley questioned the “propriety” of Sonia’s scheduled lecture. “In the past, the OCIS has been in the news on account of some activities of the centre being funded from certain questionable sources,” he said.
All that the party had to show as proof of a bin Laden-link was excerpts from The Daily Telegraph and the Guardian. Quoting from The Daily Telegraph, Jaitley said in October 2001, Prince Charles had hosted a dinner in support of the centre for Bakr bin Laden, brother of Osama. According to Jaitley, the British media had said “the dinner was to support the OCIS, where bin Laden’s family funds a fellowship programme, and was organised before the atrocity (September 11), to discuss educating people about Islam”.
The Congress hit back,saying that it had checked the antecedents of the centre and found nothing objectionable.
It added that the external affairs ministry did not raise any objections to the visit.
To a specific query, he said the ministry of external affairs did not raise any objection to her visit.Rebutting the allegation that the Centre was having having links with Osama bin Laden, he said the simple fact is that Bakr bin Laden (who at a function had dined with Prince
Charles) is the brother of Osama bin Laden.
”Bin Laden has a large family consisting of over 35 brothers and sisters. Not all of them, except Osama, are terrorists,” the Congress leader said.
While the Congress rejected BJP demand that Congress party and Sonia Gandhi should apologise for “misleading” the nation on the release of detenues in J&K, BJP leader Malhotra said the Congress was now attempting to woo the minorities in Gujarat by such moves in J&K as “it has realised that it would not get Hindu votes in the coming assembly elections in the state.”