The battle over the country’s next President has now entered cyber space. BJP secretary Arun Jaitley on Tuesday launched www.knowpratibhapatil.com, a website that details allegations levelled against the UPA candidate.
This comes despite Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat’s assurance on not raising allegations against Patil in his campaign. BJP’s LK Advani has said his party had not leveled the charges, which are an "outcome of meticulous investigation and reportage".
Jaitley launched the website at a press conference at former BJP president M Venkaiah Naidu’s residence. A 60-page booklet containing recent news stories and commentaries against Patil was also released. "Even though the people do not elect the President, they have a right to know whether the likely winner embodies the lofty ideals enshrined in the Constitution of India, of which he or she will be the custodian," Jaitley said.
Owned by India Project, the website has been conceived by a group of people friendly to the BJP. They include The Pioneer editor Chandan Mitra, columnists Swapan Dasgupta, Surya Prakash, and Ashok Malik, and Tarlochan Singh (former personal secretary to Giani Zail Singh) and Sudheendra Kulkarni, who served in the Prime Minister's Office under Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The Congress immediately retaliated against the website. It accused NDA nominee Bhairon Singh Shekhawat of misusing the Vice Presidential office for campaigning and charged Leader of Opposition L K Advani with propagating cross voting in violation of the anti-defection law. It further alleged that the BJP was undermining the presidency by perpetuating falsehoods against Patil.
“We have over 5.8 lakh votes in the electoral college of 10.98 lakh votes to give a fitting reply to the mudslinging,’’ said Parliamentary Affairs Minister P R Dasmunsi.
But Dasmunsi restricted his attack against Shekhawat to poll related issues. “I am pained he has been calling up MPs and MLAs to campaign as Vice President and not as a presidential candidate…His office rings up saying the call is from the Vice President’s office. It is an abject misuse of office,’’ he charged.