WikiLeaks reveals how BJP scored political points
The Bharatiya Janata Party was left red-faced on Saturday when a leaked United States diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks stated that the party leadership had told them that its criticism of the US in public was to score "easy political points" against the United Progressive Alliance government.
When in power, the BJP government would not have opposed the Indo-US nuclear deal, stated the cable.
The expose, published by The Hindu, drew an immediate reaction from the ruling Congress, which asked the BJP to apply to itself the same standards it adopted for the government when it was needlessly disrupting Parliament for the last few days.
The BJP, however, denied there was any doublespeak on its part and maintained that because of its strong stance on the issue, the government had to introduce 16 amendments to the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill.
'Scoring easy political points against the UPA'
According to the diplomatic cable, BJP's national executive member Seshadri Chari told an US embassy official in Delhi in December 2005 "not to read too much into the foreign policy resolution especially the parts related to the US", which had attacked the UPA's "subservience" to Washington.
"Chari dismissed the statement (resolution) as standard practice aimed at scoring easy political points against the UPA. BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar echoed these statements, saying the BJP was not really upset about the US-India relationship, but merely wanted the government of India and the US government to be more forthcoming about any deal on nuclear policy," the cable said.
Image: A BJP rally
BJP doesn't 'take international agreements lightly'
In another cable, the embassy's then Charge d'affaires Peter Burleigh wrote after a meeting with BJP leader L K Advani in May 2009, just before the Lok Sabha poll results came out, that the BJP veteran "downplayed" any move by his party to reopen the nuclear deal, noting that the BJP "does not take international agreements lightly".
Advani acknowledged that the BJP's public position in July 2008 was that the deal constrained the country's strategic autonomy and that the party would re-examine if it returned to power but connected that stance to "domestic political developments" .
The BJP leader, the diplomat wrote, was clear that there would be "no imminent BJP move to reopen the (nuclear) deal."
Image: A file photo of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with then US President George W Bush, the architects of the nuclear agreement
'I don't remember the name'
Asked about the diplomatic cables quoting him, Chari declined to comment, claiming he had not seen the report. He said he did not remember if he had talked to Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Blake in December 2005.
"I don't remember the name. I don't remember the names. I don't remember who I met in 2005," Chari said, adding the party will make an official comment if required.
BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said there are "no contradictions" in the party's stand.
"We have made our position clear both in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and through our press statements that we value strategic relations with the US and that all sources of energy should be tapped," he said.
But, he said, when the government introduced the Nuclear Liability Bill, the party raised certain objections and the government had to make 16 amendments to the Bill at its insistence.
Image: BJP leader L K Advani
'There is no double speak'
"We keep national interest foremost...there is no double speak," Javadekar said.
But Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari refused to buy the BJP's defence. He said, "For the BJP, chickens have come home to roost and they have come rather soon."
He said BJP had made WikiLeaks "the Holy Grail of their political philosophy" even when the Congress had warned them not to give credence to hearsay.
" It is for the BJP to explain to the nation whether they will apply the same standards to themselves as they attempted to apply to the government by needlessly disrupting Parliament for the last few days," Tiwari said.
Image: Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari