Make Bofors papers public, Vajpayee tells PM
Sharat Pradhan in Gorakhpur
Atal Bihari Vajpayee today urged Prime Minister I K Gujral to make public all documents related to the kickbacks in the controversial Bofors gun deal.
Launching his party's election campaign in the country's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, Vajpayee -- the Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial nominee -- termed Sonia Gandhi's recent reference to the Bofors case as a political gimmick.
''It seems Sonia is trying to show that she is absolutely innocent. Doesn't she know who took the kickbacks in the deal? After all, the beneficiaries were closely related to her," he said, and asked "why is the Gujral government sitting over the documents that are available in the prime minister's office?"
The crowd that gathered at the sprawling Maharana Pratap College ground was huge. Vajpayee was welcomed with cries of 'Jai Shri Ram' and 'Raj tilak ki karo taiyyari, aa rahen hain Atal Bihari' (get ready for the coronation; Atal Bihari is coming). Tight security was enforced at the rally and only single person entry was permitted from two narrow gates. Every person passed through a metal detector and was then frisked by security personnel.
Vajpayee, who flew in by a chartered aircraft from Delhi, arrived at the venue around 1300 hours and spoke from the saffron-clad podium decked in marigold, for nearly 50 minutes.
While narrating the events that led to the formation of the United Front government and the circumstances leading to its demise, Vajpayee sought to justify the need for stability which, he claimed, could be provided solely by the BJP. "A BJP government this time will not remain a short lived one," he thundered. "Remember, I have been through the maze once and have managed to get out of it too."
And as if to justify what enabled the survival of the BJP administration in UP after Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party withdrew support to the Kalyan Singh government last October, Vajpayee said, "We know the ropes now and nothing can stop us from forming the next government in New Delhi."
Since he has chosen to begin the most important campaign in his career in the state's remote eastern and economically backward corner, the BJP stalwart preferred to touch upon unemployment. "Even 50 years after Independence," he said, "there are 400 million illiterate people in this country and at least 90 million educated unemployed. More than 40 million children work in factories and fields instead of going to schools or experiencing the pleasures of a playground."
He was quick to blame all this on successive Congress governments, while running down the United Front for deteriorating industrial and agricultural production and the rising prices of essential goods.
"While the price of vegetables are shooting up, televisions, air conditioners and mobile phones are being made cheaper by this government which claims to be the champion of socialism.''
Vajpayee favoured the setting up of a citizens monitoring committee to keep tabs on the Rs 10 million parliamentary constituency development fund assigned to every MP in this country. "This," he felt, "could not only curb pilferage but also ensure substantial development work in each constituency."
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