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‘Nail money launderers’

BJP’S Prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani on Sunday sought to bring back the issues of governance and corruption back on the party’s poll agenda as Varun Gandhi’s hate speech controversy threatened to derail his campaign.

india Updated: Mar 30, 2009 00:16 IST
Shekhar Iyer

BJP’S Prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani on Sunday sought to bring back the issues of governance and corruption back on the party’s poll agenda as Varun Gandhi’s hate speech controversy threatened to derail his campaign.

Ahead of Prime Minster Manmohan Singh’s G-20 summit engagement next week where ending tax havens in Switzerland is on the agenda, Advani wants an action plan on bringing back Indian wealth — estimated at between Rs 25 lakh and Rs 70 lakh crore — hoarded abroad.

At a press conference, Advani released letters he wrote to the PM in this regard last year. He said he wrote about the need to get the names of Indians, presumed to have secret accounts in LGT Bank in Liechtenstien. “I was disappointed by an ‘evasive’ reply from the then Finance Minister (P. Chidambaram).”

“If we win, we will force all Indian citizens to bring their wealth back to India…This money belongs to the people of India
— farmers, the landless and the workers, who are in great economic stress today. The BJP promises to bring it back.”

He wants India to follow the lead shown by US President Barack Obama in forcing UBS, the largest Swiss bank, to part with details of 300 presumed tax evaders. Though he does not expect the UPA to act because it was “tainted” on the issue of
probity, he still wants Singh to call a meeting of the Union Cabinet to discuss the issue before he leaves for London.

Advani did not say whether the BJP favoured confiscation of the money stashed abroad, but said their “investment” in India could relieve the debt of farmers and the landless, help in building world-class roads across the country, houses, provide safe drinking water and better schools in six lakh villages.

Interestingly, Advani’s statement on the issue of black money comes after the NDA convener and JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav announced that his party would take up the issue of Indian money deposited in Swiss banks during elections and include it in his party’s manifesto.

Congress snaps back
The Congress read an election-eve “desperation” in Advani’s demand that the PM take steps to recover Indian wealth stashed away in Swiss banks and enter into a television debate with him.

“He and his party seem to have run out of ideas and have become desperate. He himself appears to be under tremendous mental pressure. He is not speaking like a Leader of Opposition, much less like a Prime Minister-in-waiting,” said Devendra Nath Dwivedi, senior Congressman.

Dwivedi said as home minister and deputy PM, Advani had not bothered to do anything to recover the wealth. “What prevented him from raising this matter in Parliament?”