Congress president targeted over kickbacks of Bofors deal
Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party on Sunday formulated a political strategy with corruption as the main plank of its campaign against the UPA government, the party discussed whether it could directly target Congress president Sonia Gandhi without the strategy back-firing.
Some leaders were clearly against directly naming Ms. Gandhi in the party's political resolution as the alleged recipient of kickbacks that Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi got from the Bofors deal. But at the public meeting that marked the end of the BJP's two-day conclave here on Sunday, this reticence was missing, although the resolution itself refrains from naming her directly.
The former BJP president, Rajnath Singh, was the first to directly attack Ms. Gandhi. He referred to an article in the New Indian Express to charge that she may have foreign bank accounts and “must be ready to have these investigated.”
Later, senior leader L.K. Advani followed suit saying that though he did not know whether the allegations against Ms. Gandhi were true or not, the current Prime Minister must have these investigated and she must publicly deny the charge.
While Arun Jaitley remained reticent, preferring not to name Ms. Gandhi — incidentally, in party discussions he was against taking her on directly — Sushma Swaraj said the ghosts of corruption and kickbacks in Bofors had now landed at the door of the Congress president just as the 2G spectrum scandal was knocking at the Prime Minister's door.
Perhaps as a matter of party strategy, and to ensure no dilution of its anti-corruption scandal, most of the BJP's Chief Ministers, including Karnataka's B.S. Yeddyurappa, were missing from the public meeting. Narendra Modi of Gujarat was also missing and did not speak, not even during the debate on the political resolution.
At a press conference addressed by spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman, who released the resolution moved by Ms. Swaraj, she was asked whether the BJP had set a new healthy precedent to fight corruption by keeping in place Mr. Yeddyurappa even as a judicial commission is set up to look at his alleged land scams.
She replied that this was not her subject and that she did not want to detract from the party's political resolution. Several more questions on Mr. Yeddyurappa were repeatedly stonewalled.
The resolution reiterated the BJP's demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the corruption scandals, but there was no clarity on its strategy for the coming Budget session. Spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told journalists that the parliamentary strategy would be decided later ahead of the Budget session.
The party blamed the Congress for not conceding a JPC and thus preventing Parliament from working. “It would have worked if the JPC had been conceded,” Ms. Swaraj said at the public meeting.