The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Double talk on Sonia

New Delhi, Sept. 6: The RSS today said the issue of whether persons of foreign origin can occupy high constitutional posts should not get enmeshed with Sonia Gandhi’s “personality”.

At the same time, the Sangh parivar suggested that Parliament should debate the matter “objectively” and amend the Constitution to prevent persons born outside India from becoming President or Prime Minister.

RSS spokesman M.G. Vaidya said: “Sonia Gandhi’s personality should be set aside…. Then only the issue should be discussed. We must delink this issue from the individual personality of Sonia Gandhi.”

Vaidya made the statement when asked to comment on ADMK chief Jayalalithaa’s objections to Sonia becoming the Prime Minister because of her Italian birth.

But even as he sought to give the impression that the political establishment must not kick up a fuss about the Congress president, Vaidya backed Jayalalithaa’s views with a personal example. “Suppose my son gets married to a foreigner and I accept her as one of our family. But when the question of whether she should contest an election arises, we will have to rethink,” he said.

“The question of whether those who have roots in a foreign country can become the Prime Minister, President or commander-in-chief, remains,” he added.

When Hindu custom was quoted to argue that after marriage, a woman was deemed to accept her husband’s surname, religion, caste, Vaidya’s response was ambiguous.

“Theoretically, yes. A woman’s name and address change after marriage, but it’s an emotional issue altogether,” he said.

Asked if the RSS would accept Sonia as the Prime Minister, he said: “The Congress does not forbid her from becoming Prime Minister, the law says she is a citizen of the country. It is for the people to decide whether she is capable of leading the nation or not.”

The RSS, however, is facing problems within. Its decision to back the Jammu State Morcha — a consortium of smaller Jammu and Kashmir parties — instead of the BJP has exposed divisions in the parivar.

Though the BJP has sewn up an alliance with the RSS-backed Morcha for the Assembly elections in the state, Vaidya indicated that the seat-sharing arrangement has not yet been worked out. Even if the Morcha candidates contest as Independents or rebels in BJP seats, the RSS would back the former, Vaidya said. Even in BJP seats, there is no guarantee the RSS would co-operate with the candidate, he added.

“What we expect the swayamsevaks to do is to support Morcha candidates. But when there is no Morcha candidate, it is up to them to decide whom they wish to support. We are not issuing a fatwa (decree),” said Vaidya.

The RSS spokesman also ruled out a joint Morcha-BJP campaign.

While the Morcha’s main plank is the creation of a separate Jammu state and conferring Union Territory status on Leh-Ladakh, the BJP has opposed the trifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir.

The seemingly untenable Morcha-BJP alliance came about because the BJP did not want a split in the Hindu votes of the state. But as the Morcha and the RSS suspect that the BJP is out to ensure the return of the National Conference government, the Sangh is not too keen on working for its political offspring.

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