The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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George girds for tape thrust
- Minister studies Sonia speech for ‘defamatory’ language

New Delhi, Oct. 1: The Congress-George Fernandes spat hit a new low today with the defence minister obtaining videotapes of Sonia Gandhi’s election speeches in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to study the “defamatory language” she had allegedly used. The Opposition party responded by demanding an apology for his gender bias.

The Congress accused Fernandes of committing the “cardinal” sin of equating himself with the nation and its security and said it revealed his delusions of grandeur.

It added that his “intemperate outbursts” were reminiscent of the French emperor Louis XIV who had variously said, “I am the state” and “After me, the deluge”.

On Monday, Fernandes had hit out at the Congress chief during the Samata Party’s state convention in Bhopal. “If that woman (Sonia) does not keep her mouth shut, there will be legal action against her and it will not be confined to defamation but sedition also,” the minister had said. Asked when he would sue her, Fernandes said: “I am not going to wait till eternity.”

Fernandes added that Sonia was trying to derive political capital by making “false allegations” that he made money in the purchase of coffins for Kargil martyrs. He said the allegations against army officials had lowered their morale and would “tantamount to treason”.

Even as the minister seeks legal opinion on proceeding against the Congress and its chief, the party has condemned his use of “derogatory words” against Sonia. The Congress also demanded an unconditional apology “for the use of insulting and gender-biased terminology”. But the Congress added: “Given the level at which he (Fernandes) operates, we do not expect one.”

Fernandes’ Samata Party is also planning a “big rally” in Delhi on October 14 or 15 to expose Sonia and the Congress, party sources said.

The Samata, with help from some BJP leaders is also preparing a booklet against the Congress chief, to be distributed before the elections.

Samata sources said they are not overly concerned at the outcome of the legal action being contemplated by Fernandes. But they feel the move will stop Sonia from “spreading canards” and “demoralising the army”.

In case the defence minister moves court, the matter will become sub judice and Sonia would have to stop raking up the accusations, at least in the run-up to the polls.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi today termed Fernandes the “taboot purush (coffin man)” in a take-off on the BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu’s dubbing of L.K. Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the lauh purush and vikas purush, respectively.

The spokesperson wanted to know when the Prime Minister and defence minister would take legal action against those whose “negligence” had allowed Pakistani intruders into Kargil in 1999.

In a strongly-worded statement, Singhvi said it was disgraceful that Fernandes was continuing in office for he was lowering its dignity with his self-serving, intemperate behaviour and his wild utterances.

He asked Fernandes to explain to the country his “eager” and “greedy re-entry into the council of ministers” even before he had been cleared in the Tehelka scam.

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