New Delhi, Aug. 16: The BJP establishment today defended Narendra Modi’s unmitigated assault on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Independence Day speech, brushing aside L.K. Advani’s veiled criticism of the Gujarat chief minister’s action.
Reacting to Congress attacks on Modi’s choice of I-Day to target the Prime Minister, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman accused the ruling party of “Modi phobia” and said it could not dictate “etiquette, timing and terms of engagement” to the BJP.
Advani had not referred to Modi but said that given the sanctity of August 15, criticism was not in order. His remarks prompted Congress leader Digvijaya Singh to claim he and the BJP veteran were on the same page on Modi’s speech. The chief minister’s Twitter fans tore into Advani and demanded he quit the BJP or keep mum.
Asked about Advani’s comments, Sitharaman said: “Advani is our guide and philosopher. He has 63 years of political experience. We will surely introspect on the advice he has offered. But that does not lessen the impact of the initiative we (Modi) have taken.”
Modi had attacked Manmohan Singh on issues ranging from national security, corruption and price rise to his alleged “worship of one family (the Gandhis)” and “disregard of non-family members” in the Congress’s annals.
Soon afterwards, Advani said: “Today I want to wish the entire nation a happy Independence Day. When I say the entire nation, I don’t think some of them are my own and some are notů. I want this feeling to grow that we must realise that without criticising anyone, this nation has unlimited potential.”
Sitharaman defended Modi by citing an American example. She said the US President’s televised state-of-the-union address on July 4 was customarily rebutted by a member of the Opposition, also on TV.
Sitharaman accused the Congress of a predilection to target the Gujarat chief minister while ignoring pressing problems. She listed the falling rupee and its impact on students looking to study abroad, declining exports and growing imports, and an investment flight from India.
“With all this, the Congress and the government’s attention is focused on impulsively reacting to everything that the BJP and Modi utter,” she said.
“It seems their cabinet ministers, spokespersons and general secretaries are seized by a Modi phobia. We are lectured on why we should not choose an important occasion to respond to the PM’s address.”
Advani stood isolated with his occasional defenders Sushma Swaraj, Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha failing to stand by him.