The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani sticks to old script
- No fireworks from outgoing BJP chief, Congress blamed for all scams

New Delhi, Dec. 28: If anyone had expected fire and brimstone at what could well be L.K. Advani’s last political statement as BJP president, they would have been disappointed.

In one of the most uninspiring speeches of his political career, Advani today blamed the Congress for the serial scandals that have jolted the BJP in recent weeks.

Expectedly, the crowd response was as tepid as the speech. Even in attacking Sonia Gandhi, Advani had little to add to what he has been saying for the past two months.

“We want to know from Sonia Gandhi how much she knew about the oil deal with Saddam (Hussein). Congress and Natwar Singh were two beneficiaries of the oil-for-food scam. Natwar Singh has gone. What about the person who signed on behalf of the Congress' I demand that Sonia Gandhi lay all her cards on the table and tell us how much she knew about these deals,” Advani raged.

He shied away from digging into the causes and implications of the cash-for-questions scam or explaining his decision to defend the tainted MPs in Parliament. Instead, Advani theorised that the BJP was being “corrupted” by “Congress culture”.

“The BJP has always believed that the Congress and its ruling dynasty is the fountainhead of all corruption in this country. While that does not justify the actions of some of our own members in the recent scandal involving parliamentarians, it reinforces our conviction that unless Congress culture is uprooted lock, stock and barrel from our system, the task of combating corruption will never be accomplished,” Advani said.

“In other words,” he added, “if the scourge of corruption is to be removed from our society, the Congress will have to be ousted from every layer of power. Power corrupts, Congress in power corrupts absolutely.”

Advani maintained that the BJP should be judged by its recent election victories rather than the spate of scandals that have rocked the party. For this, he seemed to blame the media.

“The last few months have been very painful. Every day we get some news that hurts. We are passing through a bad patch from the point of view of the media,” the outgoing party chief said.

“I keep telling my friends in the media about the need to exercise discretion. When you report on Gujarat, it feels like there is a civil war in the state BJP unit. At the same time, you should also look at our spectacular performance in the municipal elections recently.”

Advani cited the National Democratic Alliance’s victory in Bihar as proof of the BJP’s popularity despite the scams and “negative” media coverage.

“Bihar has shown the way. It has proved that the voter is mature enough to judge a political party and see through the propaganda.”

Advani said the BJP’s defining influence on contemporary politics could be linked to the Ram rath yatra. He described the Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya as an “important agenda” that remains unfulfilled.

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