After holding back for a fortnight, the Congress fired its first salvo, demanding that Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the NDA-backed presidential nominee, come clean on the "serious allegations" against him in various news reports.
Raising questions about Shekhawat’s past, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said that when people were giving up their jobs to join the freedom struggle in response to Mahatma Gandhi’s Quit India call in 1942, Shekhawat chose to join the police force, a symbol of colonial administration at that time. "And when India gained freedom, he quit the force," he said.
Asked why the Congress was targeting Shekhawat when the UPA-Left presidential nominee Pratiba Patil did not want the campaign demeaned, Singhvi claimed that the charges were not raised by his party but by the media and have figured at various points of time in the Rajasthan Assembly. These include lands scams and "unprintable" charges. "All these charges are in the public domain," he said, adding that the Congress was only demanding an explanation on them.
Singhvi claimed that unlike UPA-Left presidential nominee Pratibha Patil’s case -- where the allegations were "unfounded" and directed at associates and relatives -- in Shekhawat’s case, the allegations are against him personally and not on his relatives.
"Those who are talking of ethics should first realize that they are living in glass houses and should not throw stones…And if they raise questions of morality, they should at least explain to the people the charges against them," he said. But he sidestepped the query whether the Congress would want the charges probed.
While attacking Shekhawat, Singhvi dismissed as "incorrect" the latest controversy to hit Patil in which she has been accused of routing her MP area development fund in 1996 to build a sports complex on land leased to her husband’s educational society.
Singhvi claimed no money was given under the scheme to the sports complex nor was any land leased for it. The land remains in the government’s possession and the recommendation was for a sports complex on an adjacent land. He also pointed out that while MPs are free to send proposals of the projects they want in their area, the district collector decides whether the project meets the guidelines. The money for the project is also routed through the district collector.