| Smriti Irani at the BJP national council meeting in Delhi. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Jan. 20: As he ratified Rajnath Singh’s appointment as BJP president today, L.K. Advani seized the occasion to revive the issue of Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin.
Rajnath, on the other hand, tried to shift the focus back on Hindutva and cultural nationalism.
“The latest controversy involving Ottavio Quattrocchi has made it clear that the debate on foreign origin is not just an academic issue,” Advani said. “It has a direct link with the national interest.
“Who has links with Quattrocchi' Not the Prime Minister or law minister. His connections are with the person the Congress has chosen as its president and the UPA has appointed its chairperson.”
Advani later led an NDA team to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s residence. The NDA leaders urged the President to intervene in the matter, arguing it was a trial of strength for Indian democracy.
Rajnath focused on “ideological” themes close to the Sangh’s heart. He made a long speech touching upon the Ram temple, Article 370, a uniform civil code, Hindutva, cultural nationalism, demographic “aggression from the borders” and similar issues.
He advised the cadre to be careful about their “conduct, morality and image” at a time when the party has been hit by a series of sleaze and sex CDs.
Sanjay Joshi, who recently resigned from the BJP after being featured in a sex CD, made a surreptitious appearance at the function.
Rajnath’s long speech drew a typically subtle remark from A.B. Vajpayee. “Rajnathji has given a detailed account of the challenges that lie ahead,” Vajpayee said, adding that his appointment marked a “transition” in the BJP’s history.
“The weather is changing. Snow is melting away and the sun is changing its course. The BJP is ushering in a new era. It is a change for the better,” Vajpayee declared.
Plea on Nepal
As the political crisis in Nepal deepened with the arrest of over 400 pro-democracy activists, Rajnath made a curious plea on behalf of Nepal’s king.
He said Nepal’s monarchy symbolises its “people’s sentiments and the Nepali ethos” and advised Nepalese political parties to not oppose the king but participate in the “democratic” process he has initiated. He asked Delhi, too, to “support” the king’s “democratic process”.
Rajnath said the Centre has no choice but to support the king in his fight against the Maoists. He demanded that the Centre lift the restriction on arms supply to Nepal.