Former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee wrapped up the two-day BJP conclave, setting the tone for the BJP's battle for Bhairon Singh Shekhawat against UPA nominee Pratibha Patil.
Calling it an important battle to preserve the sanctity of the highest constitutional offices, he wanted the Congress to explain why it did not try for a consensus. "The Congress talked to me about consensus after announcing the UPA nominee. Consensus cannot be sought after you have announced the candidate," he said.
Describing the NDA-backed candidate, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, as the best choice for the post, Vajpayee said BJP's decision to oppose UPA nominee Pratibha Patil was to protest against the Congress' attitude to have "loyalists" in important constitutional offices.
Vajpayee demanded the three Central Ministers – Sharad Pawar, Lalu Prasad Yadav and PR Dasmunsi, who criticised President APJ Abdul Kalam (for his statement on considering a second term if there was certainty) – apologise to him.
Recalling the excesses of the Emergency, Vajpayee said the seeds of the authoritarian regime that came into being in 1975 was sown in 1969 when Indira Gandhi went for a loyalist, VV Giri, to oppose official Congress nominee N Sajeeva Reddy. Subsequent events between 1969 and 1974 led to the Emergency, he said.
Vajpayee criticised the Left parties for opposing Shivraj Patil's candidature on the ground that, as Lok Sabha Speaker, he had been soft on the BJP. "Does the ruling combine really wants such a Speaker who is intolerant of the Opposition? Can such a person handle the House?"
LK Advani asked the UPA to reconsider the decision to field Pratibha Patil to avoid a "tainted occupant" in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. "Never in the past nearly six decades has a candidate for the election to the highest constitutional office faced grave allegations," he said.
He said the BJP and the NDA had repeatedly sought action against "tainted ministers" in the UPA government. "But what if the Rashtrapati Bhavan itself gets a tainted occupant? This is a question the entire nation must seriously ponder," he said adding whatever adverse said about Patil "anti-dates" her choice as presidential nominee.