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Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong crows over BJP ‘duel’

New Delhi, June 5: The Congress today said it saw an “unmistakable power struggle” between the BJP’s vikas purush and lauh purush.

Party spokesman Anand Sharma said the recent contradictory statements by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu were a clear reflection of a power struggle between “vikas purush” Vajpayee and “lauh purush” L.K. Advani.

Sharma today specially briefed reporters on his party’s assessment of the BJP’s series of conflicting statements — made by leaders such as Vajpayee and Naidu. This was a marked departure from the Congress’ stand yesterday, when it appeared not to perceive any “power struggle” in the BJP.

Sharma referred to the ruling party’s reversals on the temple-mosque issue and the BJP/NDA leadership to drive home his point.

The “power struggle”, however, “is not an ideological conflict”, he said.

When asked whom the Congress favoured in the alleged struggle, Sharma said it mattered little to the party. Both Vajpayee and Advani were equally responsible for the National Democratic Alliance’s non-governance, he said, and the Congress was determined to defeat their party.

Sharma took a dig at the rival party, saying it would be difficult to predict the winner as Vajpayee and Naidu might issue more contradictory statements and add fresh twists to the “power struggle”.

Although he did not say so, the Congress spokesman made it abundantly clear that Naidu was doing the talking for Advani — whom he had described as lauh purush a few days ago.

According to Sharma, the BJP might use the “power struggle” to divert attention from the problems facing the Vajpayee government and thus cover up its failures.

The Congress was determined to foil any such bid, Sharma said.

Troops to Iraq

Sonia Gandhi has communicated to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee her party’s opposition to any move to send Indian troops to Iraq for peacekeeping operations under the command of American and British occupation forces.

The Congress president expressed her view in a letter to the Prime Minister yesterday.

In the letter, the leader of Opposition said: “The Congress party would be totally opposed to the deployment of Indian troops under any arrangement other than a UN command or as part of a multinational peacekeeping force that has the explicit mandate of the UN.”

Copies of the letter were released to the media today.

Sonia said any move to deploy Indian troops under the command of occupation forces would constitute an abandonment of a fundamental principle that India has always followed — that is, sending Indian peacekeeping forces under UN command and control.

The Congress chief drew attention to various statements in the media over the issue of sending troops to Iraq and said a clarification from the highest level in the government was required to ascertain the exact position. The idea of sending troops was a matter of deep concern to the Congress, the leader of Opposition added.

The Congress had made known its opposition to the proposal of sending troops to the war-ravaged country the last time, too, when the issue figured in the Union Cabinet.

But Sonia’s letter assumes significance as the government is considering the issue afresh.

The issue had reportedly figured in US President George W. Bush’s brief talks with Vajpayee last week when the two met in St. Petersburg.

Releasing Sonia’s letter to the media, party spokesman Anand Sharma said this evening that India had sent troops on peacekeeping operations to many trouble-spots in the world. But never had it been outside the UN mandate, he added.

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