In a sudden turnaround, senior BJP leader LK Advani has apologised to Congress president Sonia for the allegation that the Nehru-Gandhi family had black money stashed away abroad.
Advani wrote to Gandhi on Wednesday, a day after he received a letter from the Congress president, saying that she was pained by the allegations. She said no member of her family had black money abroad.The allegation was levelled in a report by a BJP-commissioned task force, comprising chartered accountant S Gurumurthi, IIM-Bangalore professor R Vaidyanathan, former IB director Ajit Doval and BJP national executive member Mahesh Jethmalani.
The report accused former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi of having Swiss bank accounts, besides claiming that Sonia was controlling the money stashed away in the name of Rahul Gandhi, then a minor.
Advani's letter said, "I am happy that you have denied the report … If these had been denied earlier, the task force would have taken your denial into account. Even so, I deeply regret the distress caused to you."
Although Congress media department chief Janardan Dwivedi welcomed Advani's letter, saying, "It's a welcome gesture," information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni said, "I thought Mr Advani has retired some time back and left space for younger people like Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley…"
The letter, described as Advani's second bomb after his comments praising Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi in June 2005, triggered quite a flutter in the BJP.
There was grave concern among some that it had scuttled the BJP's anti-corruption and anti-black money campaign days before Parliament opens for the budget session.
The leaders were miffed about two things. One, the letter was sent out without any intra-party consultation. Two, the task force report had not been adequately discussed before being published.
In January, NDA leaders submitted a memorandum to the PM on black money issue and quoted a Swiss journal, saying a former PM had black money abroad, which was seen as an attack on Rajiv Gandhi.
NDA allies are now ill at ease.
JD(U) leader Shivanand Tiwari distanced himself, saying he endorsed the memorandum because Advani had "authentically" stated such reports came out in journals.
Shiv Sena chief whip Anandrao Adsul said his party stood firm on its stand irrespective of what Advani said.