The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia-baiter becomes a Gandhi

New Delhi, Dec. 9: It was the printer's devil but one that is unlikely to amuse Sushma Swaraj.

The BJP leader, who threatened to don sackcloth and ashes and tonsure her head if Sonia Gandhi became Prime Minister, was called 'Sushma Gandhi' in a handout prepared by the National Democratic Alliance. NDA convener George Fernandes then added insult to injury by referring to her as 'Sushma Gandhi' at a media briefing today.

Journalists initially dismissed this as a slip on Fernandes' part as he read out the names of those who attended an NDA meeting this morning. The main topic of discussion was the Congress chief's birthday celebrations so the inference was that in his obsession with Sonia, Fernandes had forgotten Sushma has a different surname. On being asked about the slip, the NDA convener smirked.

When the release was circulated it was clear the BJP leader had been called 'Sushma Gandhi'.

The release was a resolution the NDA passed to record the 'strong exception' it took to the plethora of ads released by Congress-ruled governments and the Centre's 'eulogising' Sonia on her birthday.

'Apart from wasting a lot of taxpayers' money, this sycophantic advertisement blitz constitutes gross political impropriety,' the release said.

The NDA said Sonia, as the United Progressive Alliance chairperson, could not 'legitimise this patent misuse of government resources for seeking political mileage'.

'The Congress party is free to take out advertisements at its own expense to celebrate the birthday of its party president. However, Congress-led state governments have no justification whatsoever for doing so,' it concluded.

Asked how the NDA justified the 'India Shining' ad blitz unleashed before the last Lok Sabha elections and if it also amounted to wasting taxpayers' money, Fernandes replied: 'That campaign was meant to purvey the achievements of a government and not project a single individual in a sycophantic manner through money taken from the common man.'

He kept mum when it was pointed out that the BJP government in Rajasthan had used Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani photographs in advertisements released last week to mark a year in power. Reminded that Vajpayee and Advani no longer hold public office, Fernandes said: 'We are not justifying anything.'

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