|kicking up a storm: Priyanka, Rahul
New Delhi, Jan. 27: Strategist Pramod Mahajan has added a spin to the foreign origin issue in view of Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi’s plunge into politics, throwing the BJP into confusion. The party is unsure whether to back his views or maintain a distance.
Addressing a news conference in Calcutta yesterday, Mahajan said only children of Indian-born parents must aspire to become the Prime Minister. “The prime ministership should be open only to those born of Indian parents — father and mother must both be Indians.”
Asked if his proposed norm would apply to Rahul and Priyanka, Mahajan replied: “I have made a statement. It is for you to derive the meaning.”
The same day, another senior BJP leader, Rajnath Singh, took a divergent view on the subject. He told BBC the BJP would have no problem if Sonia Gandhi’s children got elected to top constitutional posts. “Soniaji has given birth to Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi. We will not raise any finger on both of them if they enter politics and even if they were to attain the top position of the country,” the Union agriculture minister said.
Asked for his reaction, BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar, after some cajoling, said: “I do not fully know what Mahajan said. But Congress will not have an opportunity to elect its own Prime Minister. Rahul and Priyanka’s joining politics is an internal matter of the Congress.”
The Congress reacted angrily to Mahajan’s suggestion, saying the BJP is running scared of the duo. “The only result of this comment is that they are scared. They are so scared of a young boy and young girl that they have started talking things like this,” Congress general secretary Ambika Soni told reporters.
In Indore, Arjun Singh appealed to the Prime Minister to “control elements” like Mahajan, who, he alleged, were working against the secular values of the country.
Observers are wondering whether the apparent confusion is a case of doublespeak that often characterises the BJP’s response to issues or a manifestation of panic. Some felt the party is assessing the popular mood on the Gandhi siblings before giving a “considered” view.
Mahajan reportedly used the collective pronoun “we” in the news meet and said “it is our considered view”. But Javadekar maintained the BJP is yet to take a stand.
Privately, BJP sources did not rule out the possibility of the siblings attracting “new and young” voters in a big way. “A new and young face does work wonders. This is why we projected Uma Bharti and Vasundhara (Raje) in the Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan elections and it paid off,” said one of them.
The party hopes to target the young voters through a series of youth conventions across the country over the next month.
Tentatively, the BJP has worked out a two-pronged answer to Rahul and Priyanka’s appeal. It will play up Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s perceived image of a “solid, grandfatherly” leader in whose hands India is “safe”. “Even young people like his indulgent, grandfatherly look,” claimed a source. It will also use the dynasty argument and point out that the Congress has always “foisted” leaders from the top instead of letting them emerge from the grassroots.