The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jaya’s foreigner fire on Sonia warms BJP heart

New Delhi, Aug. 28: Jayalalithaa today fanned afresh the dying flames of Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin controversy and opposed the idea of the Congress president becoming Prime Minister, driving possibly the last nail in a relationship that began with the unfulfilled promise of a “political earthquake”.

The BJP — widely perceived as Jayalalithaa’s prospective ally — was circumspect in its official reaction, but the scandal-smothered party could not hide its glee in private.

The BJP kept the pot boiling by mooting a debate on the foreign origin issue. “We favour a debate as it involves changes in the law and it can be arrived at only through consensus. Of course, it is on the NDA agenda,” BJP spokesman Arun Jaitley said.

The spark was lit in the morning when Jayalalithaa told a press conference that a country of one billion could have only an Indian leading it. She said her party was prepared to bring a legislation barring people of foreign origin from occupying high offices if other parties backed her.

She berated the Congress for “backtracking” on its support to the Ordinance on electoral reforms. She also assailed the Election Commission, accusing it of trying to arrogate the powers of the executive by delaying polls in Gujarat.

The ADMK chief, who had backed Sonia’s bid to form the government after toppling the Vajpayee regime in 1999, said the ADMK would not support a “foreigner” as Prime Minister. “It was a crying shame and a pointer to the moral bankruptcy of the Congress,” she said.

Referring to the controversial tea party in 1999 when the two women leaders had met and Jayalalithaa had hinted at a “political earthquake”, Jayalalithaa said it had nothing to do with making Sonia the Prime Minister. She said it was not Sonia, but CPM veteran Jyoti Basu she had backed for the post of Prime Minister. However, Sonia had scuttled the plan when everyone (in the Opposition) had agreed, Jayalalithaa added.

“When did I say I support Sonia Gandhi as Prime Minister of the country' Show me one statement,” the ADMK chief said.

The Tamil Nadu chief minister had met the Prime Minister at the Cauvery meeting yesterday and the deputy Prime Minister today. Asked if the ADMK was supporting the NDA, she said her party was extending only “issue-based” support. She had backed the controversial anti-terror law.

But there was “no question of joining the alliance (NDA)”, she stressed. Asked whom she would align with in the next election, pat came the reply: “Certainly not the Congress.”

Jayalalithaa’s impatience with Sonia used to find expression in occasional jabs. The flashpoint of today’s outburst is being traced to the Tamil Maanila Congress’ recent merger with the Congress, which Jayalalithaa had tried hard to scuttle.

The outburst also came when the stage has been set for a fresh round of legal battle involving corruption cases against Jayalalithaa. The CBI had moved the Supreme Court last Friday against Madras High Court’s stay on the proceedings in a divestment case.

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