The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rajnath picks up bash-Sonia baton

New Delhi, Sept. 9: A day after Narendra Modi called Sonia Gandhi the “daughter of Italy” and warned Congressmen not to view politics through “Italian spectacles”, another BJP leader indulged in his share of Sonia-bashing today.

Picking up the baton from Modi, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Rajnath Singh gave lessons to the Congress president on “secularism and communalism”.

At a news conference here today, Singh said: “Sometimes Sonia Gandhi forgets India is not a theocratic state but a secular state. And it looks like the BJP will have to appoint a special spokesman to remind her about this day after day.”

The former chief minister, however, defended Modi’s use of the phrase “Italian spectacles”. “What was on Modi’s mind was that the Gujarat incidents should be viewed objectively and without any bias. They should not be through glasses. If Sonia happens to be an Italian, what’s wrong with reiterating it'” Singh asked.

Singh accused Sonia of “adding ghee to fire” when she reportedly referred to Gujarat as “Godse’s Gujarat and not Mahatma Gandhi’s” in one of her public meetings shortly after the communal violence in March.

“If Sonia wants to run her party, we have no problem, if she wants to do politics, let her. But to fulfil her vested political interests, the least she should not do is tarnish India’s image in the world’s eyes,” he said.

Singh referred to Rajiv Gandhi’s alleged justification of the 1984 anti-Sikh violence with the explanation that “when a big tree falls the earth is bound to quake” and said: “This is the difference between the way in which the BJP is committed to upholding India’s secularism and the Congress is.”

The former chief minister maintained that the reason why the BJP planned its Gaurav Yatra — launched by Modi yesterday — was because the “Congress had hurt the self-respect and pride of Gujaratis and, therefore, the yatra was needed to restore these qualities”.

The other reason for the yatra, he added, was to “spread the message of peace and goodwill”.

Singh claimed BJP workers were told to “conduct themselves with restraint” and not to get “provoked by people who were out to create disturbances and not to indulge in personal attacks against political opponents”.

Asked why Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was forced to ask Modi to follow the “raj dharam” (morality of a ruler) when Gujarat was engulfed with violence, Singh said: “It is not out of place for the mukhiya (head) of a parivar (family) to give advice to a younger member to follow the right path. Atalji is the mukhiya of our party and the government so there was nothing wrong if he reminded Modi about his raj dharam.” But, he added: “This does not mean Modi was not adhering to the raj dharam.”

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