The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shame and scandal in Cong attack on PM

New Delhi, March 11: Snapping out of a stupor, the Congress has picked its prime target: Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The Prime Minister was put on public trial by the principal Opposition party today when it released a 56-page chargesheet against the government’s six years of “sins, scams and shame” in the most vocal and direct attack on Vajpayee in the run-up to the coming elections.

“The Prime Minister cannot disown his responsibility” for the Centre’s omissions and commissions because the ultimate responsibility in a parliamentary democracy is the Prime Minister’s, Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee said.

The Congress so far has been concentrating on Sonia Gandhi’s roadshows and trying to drive home the point that its governments pioneered most of the steps that led to the perceived feel-good in the country.

However, the party’s reluctance to zoom in on the several scandals that broke during the BJP’s rule had spread disquiet in the Congress ranks, strengthening a perception that the campaign lacked political teeth.

Today’s move to gun for Vajpayee is intended at countering the Atal factor that the NDA has been highlighting in its campaign. “There is no Atal factor,” Mukherjee said.

The booklet — released in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Bangalore simultaneously — repeatedly mentions Vajpayee’s name while listing the scams and the government’s “failures”.

The document also mentions his principal secretary, foster son-in-law and a relative. The concluding part details instances of Vajpayee’s “doublespeak”.

“These (scams) may be known to you. But when 700 million people cast their votes, we want to remind them about these scams,” Mukherjee said.

BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu dismissed the chargesheet with characteristic disdain, describing it as “stale and pale”.

The Congress’ charge that the NDA government has compromised national security dominates with the document asserting that the Prime Minister owes an explanation for reinducting Tehelka scam-tainted George Fernandes as defence minister.

The document accuses the Centre of diverting Rs 22,000 crore collected as Kargil cess. Over Rs 49,000 crore was involved in 80-odd scams, including those on coffins, UTI, petrol pumps, land allotment and divestment, Mukherjee said. “So much for the India Shining campaign.”

The most direct attack on Vajpayee is reserved for his “flip-flop” on Ayodhya, Fernandes’ alleged involvement in Tehelka, Gujarat riots, minorities and employment. “India will (therefore) feel good only when the NDA is thrown out,” the booklet says.

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