Saturday, July 19, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

BJP targets Sonia’s foreign origin
Ram temple on party agenda but not poll issue
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

Raipur, July 18
In an obvious effort to make Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin an election issue, the Bharatiya Janata Party today said a Prime Minister born on Indian “soil” would prove to be more “sensitive” and “responsible” to issues of national security and prestige.

On the first day of the three-day National Executive meeting here, BJP spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said: “The issue of foreign origin is certainly important. When the Prime Minister of the country is to be elected, questions could be raised about what fallout it will have on national security if a person of foreign origin occupies this post”.

Asked if he meant that Ms Sonia Gandhi as Prime Minister would be a threat to national security, Mr Naqvi replied that a natural India-born citizen would certainly be more “sensitive” to the nation’s security.

The BJP General Secretary said it was an important issue for the country to decide whether to allow foreign born citizens to hold constitutional posts. The BJP had no objection to Ms Sonia Gandhi being made citizen of the country or being appointed as Congress President, but her promotion as Prime Minister was certainly a issue of public concern, he said adding that “we would have no objection if the Congress made Gen Pervez Musharraf as its President.

Earlier in the day party President M. Venkaiah Naidu in his presidential address also raised the issue. But his attacks were not so direct as he trained his guns on the main opposition party terming it as “confused” and an organisation imitating the BJP.

While the BJP had started the coalition experiment and has run the National Democratic Alliance successfully for over five years, the Congress had begun to talk of it now, Mr Naidu said adding that the party would not get any partners.

He challenged the Congress to have coalitions with the Left parties in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura.

Another thing that became clear on the first day of the meet was that the party was drawing broad contours of its election strategy for the next Lok Sabha poll.

Apart from the issue of Sonia Gandhi which is presently high on the BJP’s priority list, the party is also trying to satisfy its workers on ideological issues. It is likely to take up those “Hindutva” issues which do not disturb its arrangement with the NDA.

Mr Naidu maintained that the issues of Ram temple, abolition of Article 370 and the uniform civil code were very much on BJP’s agenda but it did not want to force them on its NDA allies.

Clearly the BJP wants to have the best of the both sides as it is saying on the one hand that Ayodhya was not an election issue and on the other insisting that “Hindutva is the soul of India”.

At the same time Mr Naidu is also trying to force Ayodhya on the Congress saying that it was running away from the Ram temple issue by hiding behind the advice of “wait for the judicial verdict”.

In a series of suggestions to the government for improving the electoral prospects of the party, Mr Naidu said the Finance Ministry should consider providing lower interest rates to agriculturists, like it was done for farmers few days ago and desilt agricultural wells coupled with filter points, motors and pump sets.

Accusing Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf of not giving up “anti-India agenda”, party said the General was not responding positively to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s initiatives to normalise relations between the two countries.

The BJP also supported the NDA government’s decision not to send troops to Iraq and complimented Mr Vajpayee for his path-breaking visit to China.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today said he did not want to get into the controversy over the VHP and RSS demand for the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya as the issue was being discussed at the BJP National Executive meeting here.

“I am not getting into the controversy, the issue is being discussed at the National Executive”, he told reporters on his arrival at the airport here to attend the meeting.

The Prime Minister was replying to a question on the VHP and RSS demand for building Ram temple at Ayodhya. 


BJP constitution amended

Raipur, July 18
The BJP tonight amended its constitution to allow a person a second term as President.

The amendment, on the recommendations of the O.P. Kohli Committee, changed the earlier provision that a person cannot occupy the top party post for a second term, party sources said.

However, the amendment provided that no person could hold the post for two consecutive terms. — PTIBack


BJP chief makes last-minute changes
Satish Misra

BJP President M. Venkaiah Naidu was fine-tuning his inaugural address till the last minute as he was seen consulting his party colleagues and including their suggestions. A delay in the take-off of the aircraft helped him further as it ensured enough time to incorporate the views of ministers and party stalwarts. The final touches to his speech were given by Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.

Late take-off

Rain and a non-existent technical snag delayed the departure of the Alliance Air aircraft. As most of the party heavyweights were to travel by this flight, the meeting of the National Executive of the BJP began later than the scheduled time of 11.30 am at Raipur.

Flight CD 7469, detailed for the convenience of VVIP passengers, was rescheduled to 6.45 pm from 5.55 am, but could not take off on time as Mr Advani arrived 45 minutes late. While the Alliance Air staff went on announcing that the flight had been delayed due to a technical snag, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi went around greeting party colleagues and cracking jokes that the absence of actor Shatrughan Sinha was delaying the departure.

Health Minister Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha, Disinvestment Minister Arun Shourie, Petroleum Minister Ram Naik, Commerce Minister Arun Jaitley and Information and Broadcasting Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad shared the same fate as the ordinary passenger.

Receiving PM

General Secretary of the Chattisgarh unit of the Nationalist Congress Party Anil Verma was given the honour of receiving Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the airstrip, which caused heartburn among local BJP leaders as many of them were left out. Local leaders said Dr Verma, a chest specialist, was given this honour on the directive of the Prime Minister’s office. Dr Verma was the main organisational strength of the NCP as its leader Vidya Charan Shukla was only the crowd-puller

3-day affair

For the first time after coming to power, the National Executive meeting of the BJP was being held for three days. It was routine earlier but the pressure of governance had put constraints and the meeting held only for two days. Another departure was that the party was not holding a public meeting, but only a workers’ convention on Sunday, in which over 10,000 activists were expected to participate.

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