The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia cuts cake, Atal eats it

New Delhi, Dec. 9: On her 58th birthday, Sonia Gandhi cut a mammoth cake but did not seem to have the appetite for it.

It was Atal Bihari Vajpayee who was having the celebrations, though with laddoos, not cake. He did call Sonia in the morning to wish her but it was the rebirth of the BJP — in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh — that was the cause of the Prime Minister’s jubilation on return from a trip abroad.

It was Vajpayee who had the icing, too, or call it a rebirth of the BJP in another sense. Uma Bharti, now chief minister of Madhya Pradesh and among the most rabid proponents of Hindutva, said she won because of the development and welfare schemes initiated by the Prime Minister.

This election has been a victory of the BJP and, apparently within the BJP, the victory of the so-called Vajpayee line of stressing on development and governance rather than Hindutva.

At the BJP parliamentary party meeting, which the new chief ministers attended, the three bowed their heads to the poll-winning power of “Atal maya”.

Sonia was chasing away the evil shadow of Ajit Jogi at the Congress parliamentary party gathering. Expressing “anguish” over his conduct, she said Jogi had ceased to be the leader of the Congress legislature party in Chhattisgarh the moment the poll verdict came and had no authority to write a letter to the governor extending support to any splinter BJP group to form a new government.

His act, she said, could “simply not be condoned”. Jogi was caught on audio tape offering to finance a split in the BJP and has been suspended by the Congress since.

“We are for a thorough and impartial investigation,” she added without passing any judgement on the bribery charge.

The CBI today registered a case against Jogi and his son.

Jogi’s hopes for forgiveness were shredded with Sonia refusing to give him an audience even on her birthday, when she accepted greetings and flowers from a long line of Congress leaders and activists. Jogi had kept a bouquet ready in hope that wilted by the end of the day. He has been waiting in Delhi for three days to meet her.

The Congress president herself has come under attack from the BJP in and outside Parliament with allegations that Jogi could not have attempted what he did without her blessing.

Sonia chose to counterattack. She said Vajpayee had run a low-level campaign in the polls.

“Never has a Prime Minister been so blatantly partisan, never has a Prime Minister condoned corruption so brazenly, as he has done these past few weeks.”

The way BJP leaders spoke up for Dilip Singh Judeo, the Union minister, even after he was “caught red-handed” on a CD accepting money in exchange for a promise to assist in a business deal, was evidence of their defence of corruption itself, she added. ( )

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