The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Military, not Iran, drives BJP

New Delhi, Feb. 14: Senior leaders of the NDA today complained to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam about what they described as the government’s decision to assess the level of Muslim representation in the armed forces.

“The army has no religion. It represents the entire country. For a committee to now start inquiring into the religious denominations of the personnel of the armed forces and further probing the kind of postings being given to each one of them is fraught with dangerous consequences,” said the NDA memorandum to the President.

Appealing for the President’s intervention, it said the move would “communalise” the armed forces.

The issue, which seems set to dominate the coming session of Parliament, has come as an unforeseen face-saver for the BJP that has been struggling to find a definite focus to its strategy in the House.

The party has submitted about 80 notices for discussions under different rules. The topics range from the phone-tapping controversy to prices offered to sugarcane farmers.

Interestingly, no notice has been given for a discussion on the Indo-US nuclear deal. In fact, on the two most hotly-debated strategic issues ' the Iran vote and, to a lesser extent, the Indo-US nuclear deal ' the BJP’s view is not very different from that of the ruling UPA.

The BJP is not opposed to the nuclear deal per se, but objects to “indications” from the US that India’s capacity to produce fissile material is sought to be capped.

Although there is a notice on the Iran vote, the focus is more on US ambassador David Mulford’s controversial statement than the decision to vote against Iran.

In the wake of other sections of the Sangh parivar openly supporting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the Iran vote, the BJP has chosen to take a pragmatic stand.

Party leaders and former national security adviser Brajesh Mishra discussed the two issues at Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s residence late last night. The party leaders met again this morning.

By afternoon, BJP leader Jaswant Singh came out with a statement attacking the UPA for “succumbing” to US pressure on both issues. But he also echoed the RSS’s view that Iran’s nuclear programme does not suit India’s strategic interests.

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