The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shekhawat trips spark Cong salvo

New Delhi, Oct. 20: The Congress has criticised Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat for failing to uphold the neutrality of his office and “indulging in the politics of his party”, the BJP.

Congress spokesman Anand Sharma referred to reports in some Rajasthan dailies of Shekhawat’s frequent visits to his home state — he was also the state’s chief minister — and the suggestion that he was backseat driving the BJP’s electoral machinery ahead of the Assembly polls.

“There is a clear tradition in this country that persons holding high constitutional offices have respected the Constitution and kept away from politics once they occupy such posts. That tradition has been flouted now,” he said.

Reacting sharply to the Congress’ comments, the Vice-President retorted: “I know the Constitution as much as they (the Congress) know.”

Sharma alleged that Shekhawat was “not able to keep away from party politics” and advised him to “respect convention and distance himself from the politics of his party”.

Reports appearing in some Rajasthan dailies mentioned how BJP ticket aspirants had met Shekhawat over the last few days to seek his blessings and intervention.

“All this is being discussed in the press,” the Congress leader said when asked to substantiate the allegation. “It is unfortunate and we are appealing to the vice-president to take note of this public discussion and desist from anything which would not be expected, which would not conform to the Constitution.”

Asked if Shekhawat’s conduct would be construed as being “improper” if he met a Congress delegation while in Rajasthan, Sharma said: “A Congress delegation will call on him only if national and constitutional issues come up for discussion. Our information is (that) the vice-president has been meeting the BJP’s aspiring candidates. We do not question the vice-president’s right to tour Rajasthan or, for that matter, any other part of the country. But the nature of his engagements has compelled us to make this demand.”

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