The Congress was in a combative mood on Monday as it took the battle over Rahul Gandhi’s comments on his family’s role in the division of Pakistan into the BJP-led Opposition camp.
Defensive and evasive on most issues, the Congress went on the offensive to justify Rahul’s remarks as "part of history" and counter the BJP’s charge that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s remarks portraying Rahul as the future of UP smacked of "prime ministerial sycophancy stemming from the politics of dynasty."
Even as BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar wondered what else could be expected from a man who has been reduced to the position of a regent by the dynasty, which expects him to keep the seat warm until the crown prince is ready, the Congress came out with a list of non-Congress leaders who were actively promoting their kin in politics. "When it comes to Congress party, it is dynastic politics. What about others?" asked Congress spokesman Satyavrat Chaturvedi.
According to him, the BJP’s list included former Premier AB Vajpayee’s niece Karuna Mishra and nephew Anup Mishra; late Pramod Mahajan;s brother-in-law Gopinath Munda; Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra, late Vijay Raje Scindia’s daughters Vasundhara Raje (and her son Dushyant) and Yashodhara Raje; Kalyan Singh’s son Rajvir and daughter in law Premvati Devi and Vice President B S Shekhawat’s son-in-law Narpat Singh Rajavi.
The SP includes Mulayam Singh Yadav’s son Akhilesh, brother Shivpal and nephew Dharmendara; the Shiv Sena, Bal Thackeray’s son Uddhav and nephew Raj and the RLD has late Chaudhary Charan Singh’s son Ajit Singh, grandson Jayant and daughter Gyanwati. The National Conference’s family tree includes Sheikh Abdullah Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah.
But while trying to nail the Opposition, Chaturvedi screened out UPA leaders like PDP’s Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti and TDP leader late NT Rama Rao’s daughter, Union Minister Purandeshwari. Rama Rao’s relatives include widow Laxmi Parvaty and sons-in-law Chandrababu Naidu and N Harikrishna.
Reacting to queries on Rahul, Chaturvedi wondered how the charge of dynastic rule can be leveled when a person is elected by the people. He also defended Rahul’s remarks saying that the MP has the ``right’’ to mention his family’s contributions "with pride."
Chaturvedi rejected the charge that Rahul’s comments had created a diplomatic row. He claimed that the reaction from Pakistan said that there was nothing new in what Rahul had said as he was talking about history. "There is more reaction here than there," said Chaturvedi. However, he added, that whether in India or Pakistan, a lot of things are said during elections.
The BJP, however, challenged the External Affairs Ministry to step in and "validate" his statement.
The Opposition party, which kept up its attack on the PM, the Amethi MP, also demanded a debate whether people of foreign origin could be appointed on constitutional positions following the admission of a petition in this regard by the Supreme Court on Monday, April 16, 2007
"It (the petition before the apex court) provides an occasion for all political parties to sit across and decide this question politically as well in consensus. However, the most important point remains, can the Congress party dare to take lead in this regard," he asked.
Chaturvedi’s counter: On earlier occasions, the High Court and the Supreme Court have rejected the foreign origin case against Sonia Gandhi and even reprimanded the petitioners. In this case, the court is only going into the Special Leave Petition and no observation has been made or order given.