Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s projection of Manmohan Singh as the party’s prime ministerial nominee on Tuesday promptly turned the 2009 Lok Sabha polls into a battle between him and LK Advani, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) aspirant for the post.
“…it is necessary that the reins be in the hands of a government which is a symbol of stability, continuity and national unity. We have a prime minister in Dr Manmohan Singh who believes in these values,” Gandhi said, releasing the party’s manifesto.
<b1>Minutes later, Singh was breathing fire. Reacting to a question about charges of being a weak prime minister, mostly by Advani, Singh said: “Is Mr Advani strong? The only prominent role he played was in the demolition of the Babri Masjid.”
And now Singh was in flow. “…[Advani] presided over the 2002 Gujarat riots, saw the terrorist attacks on Parliament, the Red Fort, rewarded terrorists who had hijacked the plane [to Kandahar]” and praised Pakistan founder MA Jinnah.
Later in the day, Advani retaliated, addressing a rally in Mathura to launch the BJP’s nationwide campaign. He charged Singh with playing second fiddle to Sonia. “He does not take any decisions himself. Whatever he decides, a minister first goes to 10, Janpath and takes Gandhi’s permission.”