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Daily Take: This is no 'child's play'

May 04, 2004 05:06 IST

Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra are making a very good impression on voters around the country.

If you don't believe us, ask the BJP.

Why else would the ruling party suddenly change its theme from 'foreign origin' to 'child's play'?

Last week it was Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. On Monday, it was BJP president M Venkaiah Naidu.

"Congress is taking help from children," said Naidu in Lucknow. "But running the country is not child's play."

Naidu did not name the 'children', but it does not take a Sherlock Holmes to guess his target.

Only the NDA led by the BJP, he said, has an experienced and able leadership, which can give the country stability and development.

Ironic, isn't it? Until about a decade ago, this used to be the Congress theme song, with Vajpayee having spent a lifetime haranguing the government of the day from the opposition benches.

But not everyone has relegated the 'foreign origin' subject to the backburner.

Sonia Gandhi's old friend, Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, is doing his best to keep it alive and in the public gaze.

Dr Swamy declared on Monday that there is a clear legal bar on Gandhi becoming the prime minister of India.

He claimed that under section 5 of the Citizenship Act, Indian citizenship conferred on an Italian national is subject to the same conditions and restrictions that apply to Indians who seek Italian citizenship. And, according to Dr Swamy, a naturalised citizen of Italy cannot hold a high public office like that of the prime minister.

Ergo, Sonia Gandhi cannot hold the office of prime minister of India.

Dr Swamy said he has written to Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani to issue a government order to make this position clear.

Wonder why Advani, Law Minister Arun Jaitley, and the battery of legal experts at the BJP's disposal never saw this opportunity and spent an entire term just talking about a constitutional amendment!

Mulayam Singh Yadav is indeed a strange man.

Who wouldn't be thrilled to have one's own opponent campaigning for him?

But no, Yadav is not at all grateful that Prime Minister Vajpayee himself is seeking votes for the Samajwadi Party.

If anything, he is furious. At an election rally in Aligarh, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister actually accused Vajpayee of bringing established norms of electioneering into disrepute.

"Who is he to ask Muslims to vote for us?" Yadav thundered. "The prime minister is using devious methods for his campaigning, which do not behove a person occupying the highest office of the land."

Fearful that any rise in the Congress party's acceptability to Muslims in India's largest state could cause more troubles for him in the numbers game in the fourteenth Lok Sabha, Vajpayee had urged them to look at other options if they did not trust the BJP, but to not vote for the Congress.

But for Yadav, who is already combating allegations of a secret understanding with the BJP, such compliments could prove to be the proverbial kiss of death in a closely contested election.

No wonder he thinks Vajpayee is trying to malign the Samajwadi Party in the eyes of the minorities.

While the exit polls have excited a lot many 'third front' politicians to once again start daydreaming about becoming prime minister, at least one possible contender, former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu, has all but bowed out of the race.

Basu made it clear in an interview to The Indian Express on Saturday that he favours Congress president Sonia Gandhi for the top job.

The Marxist, who will be 90 this year, believes the Congress has learnt its lesson, that it cannot go on without building a coalition and taking other groups along.

As for Gandhi's foreign origin, he sees no problem with that, and believes she should have the right to contest for any office, like any other Indian citizen.

Whether this actually helps the Congress cause in West Bengal, which votes on May 10, or only ends up driving the anti-CPI-M votes into the arms of the Nationalist Trinamool Congress-BJP combine, remains to be seen.

If the latter happens, Basu will have killed the Congress in West Bengal softly, the way the BJP is threatening the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh.

Jyotibabu may, however, have also inadvertently embarrassed his own party.

Kerala Chief Minister A K Antony was quick to welcome his statement as a correct step to be taken by secular forces at the current juncture and wondered why the CPI-M was contesting the election in Kerala at all.

Why indeed! If the Congress is seen as the B team of the Marxists in Bengal, will the Marxists similarly be seen as the B team of the Congress in Kerala?

The BJP must be praying very hard now.

Earlier Editions:
Daily Take: Against the popular will
Daily Take: Rajni has spoken
Daily Take: India flexes electoral muscles
Daily Take: Congress makes Dharam garam
Daily Take: Making a virtue of necessity
Daily Take: Exit poll woes
Daily Take: BJP readies back-up plans
Daily Take: It's all one big friendly party
Daily Take: Congress turns tables on BJP

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