The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Party of Sardar clones won’t share icon

New Delhi, Dec. 3: The BJP has accused the Congress of hijacking its most-favoured poll plank by printing a picture of Sardar Patel, not Jawaharlal Nehru, on the cover of its Gujarat manifesto.

BJP chief Venkaiah Naidu, who briefed newsmen after returning from Gujarat, also trained guns on Sonia Gandhi for playing the Hindu card by deciding to kick off her campaign from Ambaji temple and seeking the support of sadhus for the elections.

“After charging the BJP with pursuing Hindutva, the Congress is now playing the Hindu card with Sonia Gandhi launching the party’s election campaign from Ambaji and also taking the support of 20 so-called religious leaders for the elections,” he said.

Naidu also rued that the Congress was needlessly stepping on its toes by usurping the Sardar Patel plank. The saffron party has long projected deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani as the modern-day Sardar Patel and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as Chhote Sardar.

“Sardar Patel’s picture is printed on the cover page of Congress manifesto. It appears they have dropped Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in favour of Patel. The Congress did not bother about Sardar Patel. (This is the) first time he is on the cover of its manifesto,” Naidu said.

He said the Congress had not even balked at fielding a former BJP loyalist — Yatin Oza — against Modi.

“Except communal propaganda, the party has nothing else to offer,” Naidu said, adding that the BJP’s was, however, a “positive agenda”.

Asked whether the BJP was upset or nervous, Naidu said: “We are happy. It is a victory for our thinking.”

He claimed the BJP would have a “resounding victory” in Gujarat, but refused to hazard a guess on the number of seats the party would win.

“Thinking that the minorities have consolidated behind them, now they (Congress) bring sadhus. Earlier, they had criticised us,” he said.

He added that the BJP had refrained from raking up Godhra, but the Congress had mentioned it in the preface to its manifesto.

Putting on a brave face, Naidu continued: “BJP is much ahead of the Congress which is suffering from confusion and diffidence. After projecting initially a person expelled from the BJP as its chief ministerial candidate (Shankersinh Vaghela), it is now not projecting anyone as it is not sure of its victory,” the BJP president alleged.

Naidu said Vaghela’s accusation that India never had as weak a Prime Minister as Atal Bihari Vajpayee was “absurd”. It was under Vajpayee that the country had successfully carried out nuclear tests and it was his government that had taken action against terrorists, the BJP chief said.

Naidu also accused the Congress of nurturing terror, saying it was under its rule that Bhindranwale became active in Punjab, the Tamil Tigers in Tamil Nadu, the Ulfa in Assam and terrorism began in Jammu and Kashmir.

“The seeds of terrorism were sown and grown during the Congress regime and people have not forgotten how these elements had grown in the country,” he said.

Terrorism had become an election issue in Gujarat after the attack on the Akshardham temple, he added.

To the charge that the Nationalist Congress Party was the “B team” of the BJP, Naidu asked: “If the NCP is the B team of BJP, then why are you (Congress) in alliance with that party in Maharashtra'”

The BJP president wondered why the Congress had released two manifestos with the English one mentioning Godhra and the Gujarati one skipping it.

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