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Singhvi’s ‘Bushism’ leaves Congress red-faced
Had suggested Bharat Ratna for former US President
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 13
An embarrassed Congress has quickly distanced itself from its spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s suggestion that former US president George W Bush should be given Bharat Ratna for his contributions to the Indo-US nuclear cooperation programme.

While many party members preferred to speak off the record, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi went public with his criticism saying that “this is his (Singhvi’s) individual opinion and certainly not that of the party.”

He also said that when a Congress spokesperson speaks, irrespective of whichever forum, he should remember that what he says attracts attention and criticism. “I wish Abhishek Singhvi had not put the party in an embarrassing situation,” he added.

Perhaps realising the strong sentiments his suggestion had evoked, Singhvi claimed that the remark had been made in a “lighter vein”.

Call them remarks made in a lighter vein, slight indiscretion on the part of a spokesman of the party in power at the Center or maybe even a faux pas, Singhvi’s casual remarks at a Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) function did not go down well within the Party.

Bharat Ratna is India's highest civilian award and is given for the highest degrees of national service. This service includes artistic, literary, and scientific achievements, as well as recognition of public service of the highest order.

“Bharat Ratna is India’s highest civilian award and has a lot of prestige attached to it. With general elections around the corner, such remarks will unnecessarily raise memories of Bush’s involvement in Iraq and will certainly not go down well with minorities in the country. Even with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s India-loves-Bush remark, the party had to do a lot of explaining,” says a party leader.

Speaking at the annual general meeting of FICCI on Friday, Singhvi advocated a Bharat Ratna for Bush. He said he was making the recommendation from a purely nationalistic point of view for the services the former US president had rendered to India.

Explaining his stand, Singhvi said: “I was referring to the high that we received in the Indo-Us relationships during President Bush’s time. I said that if India were to award Bharat Ratna to President Bush it would be in recognition of what he did for India. It was said in a lighter vein. Moreover, the topic was different, the forum was different. What I said was not in my capacity as the spokesman of the Congress. It was my personal opinion, not on the behalf of the Congress or the government,” he explained.

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