Advani "insulted" by Congress calling him "foreigner"
Hitting hard at Congress for describing him as a person of foreign origin, Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani on Saturday said that by questioning the "Indianness" of those who chose this land over Pakistan after partition, the party had insulted the patriotism of lakhs of people who sacrificed everything to retain their status as Indians.
"Congress leaders have been making the incredible claim that if Sonia Gandhi is suspect because she was born in Italy, I too should be suspect because I was born in Karachi, now in Pakistan. By questioning me Congress leaders are maligning lakhs of Punjabis and Bengalis who moved to India to remain Indians", he told reporters here.
Advani said "I was born in Karachi and lived the first 20 years of my life in that city which was a part of India until 1947. I came away when it became a part of Pakistan".
Indian nationality of all those who came away from the newly created Pakistan was recognised by the Constitution, he said.
"Partition was a tale of untold human suffering for those who had to leave behind the land of their ancestors. By questioning Indianness of these people, Congress has shown disregard for the patriotism of those who sacrificed everything to retain their status as Indians", Advani said before setting off for the next destination of his Bharat Uday Yatra. (more)
Stressing that foreign origin issue of Congress President Sonia Gandhi was a major political question, Advani said BJP would not shy away from raising it. "We will not be cowed down by the spurious suggestion that merely raising the issue constitutes personal vilification".
"Congress is understandably anxious to stifle all debate on the subject, it is being wilfuly vague about naming its Prime Ministerial candidate because it wants to bring in a person of foreign origin without a popular sanction," he said.
Asserting that the issue was not confined to whether Gandhi had the right to be the Prime Minister, he said the real question was should she be the Prime Minister? "Has she got a sufficient understanding of India to aspire for the top job? What is her competence vis-a-vis Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee".
Advani said Congress should accept it as a political matter, discuss it in a healthy manner and "come clean on the role they envisage for her".
"I pity the Congress that has been forced into taking ridiculous positions to justify dynastic politics", he said.
Advani said the view that top constitutional positions ought to be reserved for natural-born Indian citizens has not been held by BJP alone, the Congress split over this issue with Sharad Pawar and P A Sangma levaing the party to form NCP. (more) PTI RK RB SMS SYM
Giving a clean chit to Narendra Modi led BJP government in Gujarat over post-Godhra communal riots, Advani said "if Godhra incident had not taken place the following riots would not have occurred. Allegations in this regard against the state government are baseless and unfounded."
He said the attack on Akshardham temple was even more serious, had the state government not been very careful in handling the situation, the worse would have occurred.
"The Modi government is functioning very well. The kind of challenges it faced from drought to earthquake, very few governments would have been able to overcome. As far as issues of administration and governance are concerned, the government is very good and foreign investments to the state are at a record high", Advani said.
Reacting to the Congress charge that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had opposed nuclear testing as the then External Affairs Minister in Janata Party government, he said "I find it ridiculous, it was not a BJP government but a government headed by Morarji Desai and his views on nuclear deterrence are well kown".
"Even we could conduct nuclear test only after NDA partner agreed. Had there been any opposition we would not have as the issue was only in BJP agenda and not part of the common programme of governance", he said.
Reacting to apprehensions raised about his yatra triggering off communal tension, Advani said "till today, the 22nd day of the yatra, there has not been a single untoward incident. Those who were looking for tension must have been very disappointed. Even the courts rejected all petitions seeking stopping of the yatra."
"Hum yatra karein to apradh. Aap roadshow karein to teekh hai (its a crime if we embark on yatra but if they do roadshows it is fine)," he said referring to Gandhi's road shows.
Asked about the temple issue, Advani said "I am confident the issue will be resolved after a new government assumes office".
To a question about not being considered as prime ministerial candidate, he said "for me BJP emerging as a major party was the biggest pleasure. We want votes for the party".
On Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf threatening to withdraw from talks, the Deputy Prime Minister said "he has made such statements in the past as well including the one recently made at India Today Conclave."
As far as India was concerned, Advani said "we shall move in accordance with the Islamabad joint decleration" and hoped the two countries would move ahead as per the process agreed upon in the meeting of their foreign secretaries. PTI RK RB SMS SYM