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BJP targets 'foreigner' Sonia

Even as ruling alliance presidential candidate Pratibha Patil visits Jammu and Kashmir for campaigning, BJP targets Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin.

india Updated: Jul 08, 2007 02:57 IST

Even as ruling alliance presidential candidate Pratibha Patil on Saturday visited Jammu and Kashmir for campaigning, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) targeted Congress president Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin.

In an apparent bid to embarrass Patil and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the BJP announced that Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, an independent candidate for the post of President backed by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), would declare his financial assets.

"There is no legal requirement for the presidential candidate to declare his or her assets. But morality and propriety demand it," BJP leader Sushma Swaraj told reporters in New Delhi.

Although the BJP leaders had approached the Election Commission asking it to direct all presidential candidates to declare their assets, the poll panel rejected the demand.

The BJP gave another twist to its campaign against Patil on Saturday.

Attacking the Congress for accusing Shekhawat of serving the British rulers during his career as a policeman in the 1940s, Swaraj said, referring to Italy born Sonia Gandhi: "It does not lie in the mouth of the Congress party to raise fingers at others when it is being led by a foreigner."

The Congress, which has denied allegations of wrongdoing flung against Patil, has been publicly maintaining that the election to country's highest post should be kept away from controversy.

However, it has criticised Shekhawat for serving the British police force in 1942 when Mahatma Gandhi called on the colonial government to 'Quit India'.

When told that she was unleashing a personal attack, Swaraj said: "I will never raise any personal allegation against her. It is political."

Swaraj said she always considered Sonia Gandhi a foreigner although the Congress chief has won three elections to the Lok Sabha.

The mudslinging in the run up to presidential election has been unprecedented, with the main opposition party charging Patil with financial impropriety and of shielding her brother, who has faced an allegation of murder.

The Congress has also asked Shekhawat to come clean following media reports that as Rajasthan chief minister he helped his son and son-in-law to avoid prosecution by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) over forgery charges.

Meanwhile, Patil, who toured the southern states earlier, arrived in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday to meet legislators there.

After spending the night in Chandigarh, she will visit Himachal Pradesh on Sunday morning and then return to New Delhi to meet the city's MLAs.

The 72-year-old former Rajasthan governor's victory in the July 19 presidential election is a foregone conclusion as she is supported by the UPA, Left and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) which have a majority in the electoral college of MPs and MLAs that elect the president.

When she gets elected, she will be India's first woman president.