The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress in foreign-born fightback

New Delhi, Sept. 5: The silly season has started in the capital. And heralding the present state of political vacuity was ADMK chief Jayalalithaa.

The Tamil Nadu chief minister’s remarks against Sonia Gandhi’s “foreign” origin seemed like a replay of an old and jaded tune. But her shrill cry impacted the Congress and threw it into a tizzy.

After the initial scramble to counter the “Jaya” effect, the Congress girded up to answer the lady in her own language. If Jayalalithaa’s basic problem with Sonia becoming Prime Minister was that she was born outside India, the party said there were 29 Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs who could share the “outsider” tag with the Congress president.

In the Congress’ scheme of things, if Sonia is a “foreigner”, so are Karan Singh, Manmohan Singh, Omar Abdullah, L.K. Advani, Edwardo Faleiro, Fali Nariman, Kuldip Nayar, Dilip Kumar, Ambika Soni, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, Ram Jethmalani, Mani Shankar Aiyar and many others.

Abdullah, the minister of state for external affairs, was born in Essex, UK. Faleiro, a former Goa chief minister, was born in Lisbon, Portugal, while Karan Singh’s place of birth is France. Legal eagle Nariman was born in Myanmar. The first three, along with Sonia, belong to the “European club”.

A majority of the MPs figuring on the list prepared by the Congress is from Bangladesh and Pakistan which were part of united India in the pre-Independence days. There are 11 MPs in both Houses of Parliament whose place of birth is now in Bangladesh. They are Krishna Bose, Swadesh Chakrabortty, Nepal Chandra Das, Das Munshi, Amar Roy Pradhan, Minati Sen, Nitish Sengupta, Tapan Sikdar, Tarit Baran Topdar, Khagen Das and Jibon Roy.

Deputy Prime Minister Advani leads the list of parliamentarians who are born in territories that are now in Pakistan. The list also includes Aiyar, Sunil Dutt, Jagmohan, Vinod Khanna, Madan Lal Khurana, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, Charanjit Singh Channi, Lekhraj Bachani, Jethmalani, Dilip Kumar, Manmohan Singh, Nayar and Soni.

In terms of party-wise break-up, the Congress has 11 MPs with “foreign origins” while the BJP’s tally is seven. The Left has six MPs who were born in areas now outside Indian soil. There are two nominated, two Trinamul Congress, one Independent and one National Conference MP on the list.

So, is Sonia feeling a lot more comfortable now'

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