The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mayavati out, BJP hones Sonia sword

New Delhi, Aug. 31: Waking up to the perils of casteist politics after divorcing Mayavati, the BJP has decided to pitch “nationalism” to counter casteism.

While playing the Hindu card suitably, the party is planning to rake up in a big way Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s “foreign origin”.

The details of the strategy will be worked out at a chintan baithak (brainstorming session) of the BJP brass scheduled for September.

The party will also highlight other “national issues” such as the need for a uniform civil code, building Ram temple at Ayodhya after obtaining a certificate from the Archaeological Survey of India and the dangers of casteist politics, BJP sources said.

But Sonia is likely to get special attention from BJP stalwarts as well as its allies and supporting parties such as the Shiv Sena, the Samata Party and the ADMK. Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani had on August 26 harped on Sonia’s origin when he said the Indian people would never allow a person with alien roots to occupy the post of Prime Minister or any other high office.

At a well attended rally in Aurangabad, Advani had said: “Even in the United States there were provisions prohibiting people of foreign origin from occupying constitutional offices.”

He even hinted at Mulayam Singh Yadav’s refusal to support Sonia’s bid for power in 1999 without mentioning the Samajwadi Party chief.

“Gandhi (Sonia) had claimed the support of 272 MPs after the Vajpayee government fell by a single vote. Perhaps, had it not been her and somebody else in her place, the Opposition would have come to power,” he said.

Even her own party, Advani said, was divided over letting Sonia become the Prime Minister as was evident from a split in the Congress. He might have been referring to the formation of the Nationalist Congress Party led by Sharad Pawar.

The deputy Prime Minister also accused Sonia of being “bitter and arrogant” during the no-trust motion her party moved in the Lok Sabha on August 19.

BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan, too, attacked Sonia’s origin at the rally. People had “resolved” not to allow her to become Prime Minister, he said.

During the no-confidence motion, top National Democratic Alliance leaders had singled Sonia out for attack more than her party. NDA convener George Fernandes, his party MP Prabhunath Singh and Lok Sabha BJP chief whip V.K. Malhotra were among such leaders.

Even Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, once considered close to the Gandhi family, had sarcastically asked if the entire Opposition would support Sonia as Prime Minister.

Asked what the party would do if the new Uttar Pradesh chief minister made any move detrimental to Advani and other Sangh parivar leaders in the Babri Masjid demolition case, BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Mulayam Singh would face “political exile”.

He cautioned Mulayam Singh against reverting the Mayavati government’s decision to shift to a Rae Bareli court the demolition cases against three Union ministers and other leaders. “It is a political case and he would go into exile again as had happened earlier in 1995 after his second term as chief minister if he repeats what he had done earlier,” Naqvi said.

With a casteist Samajwadi taking charge in Lucknow, the BJP believes it will pay to concentrate on national issues in Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha.

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