The Congress stepped up its offensive on Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat as the BJP reopened the issue of Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin as part of its campaign against UPA-Left presidential nominee Pratibha Patil.
"It is supremely ironical that here is a foreigner who chose India as her family and 'karambhoomi' while 1942 saw an Indian ignore Mahatma Gandhi's call for freedom struggle and join a British-run police force," said Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi.
He claimed that the anti-Sonia campaign boomeranged as the BJP’s successive electoral defeats showed, with Shekhawat’s spokesperson Sushma Swaraj also losing to the Congress chief in Bellary.
On Saturday Swaraj said the ruling party has lost the "moral right" to talk about the freedom struggle after accepting a "foreigner" as president. She said that Sonia’s foreign origin is not a personal but a political issue.
According to Congress general secretary BK Hari Prasad: "We do not need lessons from a party whose own leader gave an affidavit saying that he was not part of the freedom movement…Swaraj’s remarks are an insult to the people who voted for Sonia Gandhi as prime minister in 2004," he said.
The Congress read a "desperation" in Shekhawat’s move to disclose his assets in the name of taking a high moral ground.
A top Congress leader said that Patil had her list of assets ready and was prepared to submit it with her nomination form.
But it was not done as the Presidential and Vice Presidential Act, 1952 only asks the candidate to submit a copy of his/her electoral roll, deposit Rs 15000 and provide signatures of 50 proposers and 50 seconders.
Noting that Patil had quit as Rajasthan governor before contesting for the Presidential office, another Congress leader quipped "Let him first quit as Vice President."
In the process, he indicated that the party saw no reason why Patil should release her list of assets if the law does not call on her to do so.
In what is turning out to be a bitter campaign, after showing some restraint, Congress leaders are now fanning out in different states to counter the charges leveled against Patil with counter allegations against Shekhawat, raising questions about his educational qualification, his service record as a police official and the land, electricity meter, illegal admission and other scandals marking his political career.