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Sonia's origin to be poll issue: BJP

July 20, 2003 15:31 IST
Last Updated: July 20, 2003 21:22 IST

Congress president Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin and her leadership qualities vis-Ó-vis Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will be issues in the 2004 general election, the Bharatiya Janata Party said on Sunday.

As the curtains came down on the three-day BJP national executive meeting in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan had some strong words for the Congress, whose spokesperson S Jaipal Reddy had commented on Vajpayee's age and health.

He said the remarks were not only highly objectionable, but also reflected the uncivilised and perverse culture of the Congress.

"Indian culture respects its leaders because of their age, wisdom, experience and contribution to the nation.

"It seems that the Congress has not only imported an inexperienced leader of foreign origin, who has no contribution to the nation worth mentioning, but also discarded the culture of India," he said in a statement.

Acknowledging that the next Lok Sabha poll will be a face-off between Vajpayee and Gandhi, he said, "Naturally, the qualities of the leaders, their experience and the origin will be debated. But it should be debated at a certain level and the people will decide."

The party also unveiled a 25-point 'Mission 2004 Action Plan' to reach out to minorities and explain to them the vote bank politics of 'pseudo-secular parties'

In the wake of constant sniping from Sangh Parivar outfits like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the party pledged to maintain good relationship with other 'nationalist organisations' and have frequent interaction with them.

"Our focus should be on political and social expansion of the party," the plan said.

Regarding the general election, BJP president M Venkaiah Naidu told a press conference: "Our campaign will be NDA-centric and positive performance of the government. If need be, people will discuss Sonia Gandhi."

'Hindutva is the country's soul and we feel proud of it', but the party will not make it an election issue, he said.

"There is no question of giving up those issues that are ideologically ours, but the fact is very clear that being a member of the coalition we will follow the common minimum programme set out by the NDA partners," he added.

Naidu said the message from the national executive was that the party should get a mandate in the coming assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Chhattisgarh on its own under 'Operation 2003'.

On the last day, Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani also addressed the executive.

Impliedly rejecting the Sangh Parivar's demand for a legislation on Ayodhya, he echoed Vajpayee's view that dialogue was the best option to resolve the issue.

"Several Muslim organisations and individuals are now talking of resolution of Ayodhya issue. It is for this reason that that the issue has become unfrozen. A settlement by dialogue is the best optionů which will defuse tension," he said.

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