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Combative Sonia targets BJP; stage set for showdown
Anita Katyal/TNS

Fight aggressively

We will not be deflected by the intemperate Congress-bashing by the Opposition. Let us stand up and fight with a sense of purpose and fight aggressively. — Sonia Gandhi, Congress chief

New Delhi, August 28
As the BJP gets ready to hit the streets on the controversial coal issue, a combative Congress president Sonia Gandhi today set the tone for her party’s counter offensive against the principal Opposition party in her meeting with party MPs.

Following up on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh statement on CAG’s report on allotment of coal blocks, she declared war on the BJP for holding Parliament to ransom and urged party MPs to “stand up and fight aggressively” as they have no reason to be on the defensive. With political temperatures in the Capital continuing to soar, the Congress is all set to follow the BJP in telling its side of the story on “coalgate” to the people.

“We will not be deflected by the intemperate Congress-bashing by the Opposition,” Sonia Gandhi said in her address at the meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP).

Adopting an uncharacteristically sharp tone, Sonia Gandhi hit out at the BJP for its politically motivated campaign against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Coming out in stout defence of the PM, she said his “comprehensive and clear” statement on the coal issue “completely exposes the BJP and its false propaganda.”

Singling out the BJP for continuously paralysing Parliament, she charged that “ransom by blackmail has become the political bread and butter” of the main Opposition party. Accusing the BJP of “acting with wanton irresponsibility”, Sonia Gandhi referred to BJP leader LK Advani’s recent description of the UPA government in the Lok Sabha as “illegitimate” which, she said, is tantamount to “mocking the people of India for the convincing mandate they have given us.”

With battlelines clearly drawn, Parliament remained paralysed for the sixth consecutive day as the BJP insisted it will not relent on its demand for the PM’s resignation. Leader of Opposition in the LS Sushma Swaraj met Speaker Meira Kumar while her party colleagues Shahnawaz Hussain and Gopinath Munde met Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde in connection with the ongoing impasse, but these meetings yielded no results.

The BJP is not interested in ending this logjam as the party wants this confrontation to continue. Having ceded opposition space to civil society groups on the corruption issue, BJP strategists believe the party should use the CAG report on coal blocks to retrieve lost ground and emerge as a viable alternate to the Congress.

Although its allies like the Akali Dal and Janata Dal (U) do not want to prolong the impasse in Parliament, the BJP has persuaded them to go along with it.

Meanwhile, Sonia’s feisty speech has ensured a never-ending war or words between the BJP and the Congress. Hitting back, BJP leader Arun Jaitley declared that the “staple diet of Congress since the Bofors scandal has been kickbacks”.





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