BJP to roll out Bofors big guns
Congress indicts coalition coterie
Rao writes, party writhes

New Delhi, Oct. 24: 
The BJP has lined up teams under two Aruns to pin down the Congress in both Houses of Parliament on the Bofors issue. The BJP is keen to keep up the pressure on the Congress, which is still reeling under the impact of the poll debacle, and is determined to embarrass the party by stressing on the role of the Gandhi family in the case.

In the Rajya Sabha, the party will field journalist-turned-politician Arun Shourie and law minister Ram Jethmalani. They have both been following the 13-year case with great interest.

BJP sources said the duo is well-versed in the subject and no Congress leader in the Rajya Sabha, from Pranab Mukherjee to Manmohan Singh, can hope to match them. Shourie, the BJP claims, has all the facts at the tip of his fingers and is already working on his presentation in the House.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh, who has replaced Sikander Bakht as the party?s leader in the Rajya Sabha, can join in once the debate starts rolling.

In the Lok Sabha, the BJP will rely on a newcomer, information minister Arun Jaitley, to spearhead its debate. He was involved in investigations in the case during his stint as additional attorney-general in the early Nineties. He is not yet familiar with the rules of parliamentary conduct and is reading up to put up a good performance. The lawyer-turned-politician had told journalists earlier that he knows the Bofors case ?like the back of my palm?.

Jaitley has got cracking on the debate even before it has opened in Parliament. Speaking on a television channel today, he defended the inclusion of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi?s name in the Bofors chargesheet.

Jaitley said there was a hue and cry everytime a corruption case involving abuse of public office came up. He cited the example of Benazir Bhutto, who has alleged that the cases against her are ?politically motivated?.

Janata Dal (United) leader George Fernandes will be another key speaker for the government. Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee will participate at a later stage.

The Congress Parliamentary Party is meeting tomorrow to chalk out its strategy. The President is scheduled to address a joint session of Parliament in the Central Hall tomorrow. Usually, the two Houses meet only for a brief while after the President?s speech is over. The Congress is yet to decide whether it will bring up the Bofors issue then.

The real action is expected to begin the day after. At the CPP meeting, Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, Madhavrao Scindia and Priya Ranjan Das Munshi will work out how the Bofors issue would be dealt with.

The Congress is doing its homework to identify the loopholes in the chargesheet. The Congress Working Committee statement issued today said: ?Any attempt from any quarter at slandering or maligning the party and its leadership will be strongly resisted.?

This makes it clear the party will go all out to thwart the BJP?s meticulously-planned anti-Rajiv Gandhi propaganda blitz.

The Congress is hoping for tacit support from the Left which has in its ranks powerful parliamentarians like Indrajit Gupta and Somnath Chatterjee who have spoken on the issue in the Lok Sabha over and over again. Already, the CPM has found loopholes in the Bofors chargesheet.

The CPM feels the chargesheet is politically motivated because the Hindujas have been omitted from the first list of accused.

Somnath Chatterjee today said Rajiv Gandhi?s name could have been omitted from the chargesheet altogether. He said the government was unable to completely dissociate itself from political aspects of the case.

The Trinamul Congress? stance on the debate will be interesting. The party?s MPs have told their leader Mamata Banerjee that the BJP government was politicising the issue unnecessarily. Mamata has said nothing about the chargesheet, but it is evident that she is not entirely happy.    

New Delhi, Oct. 24: 
The Congress today admitted that it erred in drifting from the Panchmarhi policy and virtually indicted Sonia Gandhi?s advisers for persuading her to strike regional alliances.

?In keeping with the Panchmarhi spirit and in contrast to the ruling coalition, the Congress will not take recourse to unstable, unviable, opportunistic alliances united only by lust for office,? the Congress Working Committee said after an assessment of state-level tie-ups.

Though the CWC statement singled out the ruling alliance to drive home its point, Sonia Gandhi?s strategists are being seen as the real target.

At the soul-search session, the masterminds of the Congress? alliances with Laloo Prasad Yadav and Jayalalitha had come under attack. Most of the CWC members also pointed out that the party made a mistake in shifting from the Panchmarhi line against alliances.

Divisions had kept cropping up during the election campaign, with the Congress frequently swinging between single-party rule and coalitions.

The alliance with Laloo Yadav is in a shambles now and today?s declaration could eventually prompt the Congress to go it alone in the Assembly polls in March next year.

The Tamil Nadu pact is also on a sticky wicket, with Jayalalitha mending fences with old foes like G.K. Moopanar.

For the record, Congress leaders from the northern states have listed infighting, wrong selection of candidates, the BJP?s use of the Kargil crisis and an undercurrent in favour of A.B. Vajpayee among the key factors that led to their party?s debacle.

An introspection committee headed by A.K. Antony will submit a report by the end of next month.

On the economic front, the party tried to tread the middle path and espouse a blend of free-market and socialist policies. Manmohan Singh?s reforms policy drew fire from leaders like Meira Kumar who felt the Congress has lost its ?pro-poor? image.

Addressing such concerns, the CWC statement said the party will not balk at reviewing its ?policies and programmes in the context of the changing domestic and international situation?.

The party added that its objective was not to provide ?short-term, non-viable populist measures, but to ensure a steady, healthy growth of economy? by focusing on the ?poor and weaker sections?.

Welcoming the new government, the Congress said it would play the role of a responsible Opposition, but added that it would not ?acquiesce in any attempt to divide the country on communal or caste lines?.    

Hyderabad, Oct. 24: 
Those who wrote off P.V. Narasimha Rao beware. He is writing again.

After creating ripples with the ?fictional biography? Insider, the former Prime Minister has come up with a political satire, Mangayya Adristham(Fortunes of Mangayya), leaving state Congress leaders squirming in discomfiture.

The new novel, scheduled to be serialised in a Telugu weekly from November 1, chronicles the adventures and escapades of a model-politician-turned-debauch, Mangayya.

But Congressmen in the state fear that once the novel is out, it will only be a matter of time before parallels are drawn with much-whispered shenanigans of real-life Mangayyas who had been chief ministers once.

Some events in the novel do have an uncanny similarity with rumours linked to at least two former Congress chief ministers.

The novel begins with a mythological touch, portraying Brahma who is trying to tackle two warring groups of gods. Saraswati is also part of one of the feuding factions.

Brahma creates Mangayya and sends him to earth to set an example in good governance and principled politics. Unfortunately, Mangayya, too, falls a prey to wine and women and ends up giving the state one of its worst administrations.

The novel refers to a chief minister who absconds when World Bank and IMF teams land in the capital. Another chapter finds him away with his girl friend when the Prime Minister comes to Hyderabad on an emergency.

The novel also narrates an incident when a minister inaugurates a football tournament and asks the sponsors: ?Why can?t you give one ball each to all of them??

Opponents insist that the ageing polyglot, sent to political exile by Sitaram Kesri and kept there by the new leadership, is wielding his literary lance again only to leave a few red faces in the party. Besides, some Congress leader fear that the novel could be interpreted by rivals as a commentary on the party?s state after Rao?s reign.

?Rao?s novel is a shock to us. He is trying to run down the image of the part,? said a vice-president of the state Congress.

Though Congress leaders allege that Rao is targeting a former chief minister, his supporters contend it is a work of fiction. ?You will find that the character is comparable to at least six Congress chief ministers of the last two decades,? a leader known to be close to Rao argued.    

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