Neena Vyas

Sonia is running away from the charges levelled against her, says party president Rajnath Singh

Party office-bearers to draw up a plan to deal with the aftermathPeople's attention being diverted from Government's failuresCongress suffered a bout of "panic"

NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday described the resignation of Sonia Gandhi from the Lok Sabha and chairpersonship of the National Advisory Council as "mere grandstanding that will not do."

Even as the BJP was planning to take forward the allegation of Ms. Gandhi holding an "office of profit," it was taken aback by her sudden decision to resign.

The central party office-bearers will meet here on Friday to draw up a plan to deal with the political situation in the aftermath of her resignation.

Plea to President

Just hours before she announced her decision, four BJP leaders met President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to ask that Ms. Gandhi be disqualified under Article 102 (1) of the Constitution.

A similar petition was filed by the Telugu Desam Party nine days ago, and has been forwarded by Mr. Kalam to the Election Commission for inquiry.

BJP president Rajnath Singh virtually charged Ms. Gandhi with "lack of courage" to "face Parliament and an inquiry by the Election Commission."

He criticised her resignation, and said she was "running away" from the charges levelled against her.

"We had not raised the issue of Ms. Gandhi losing the confidence of the people of Rae Bareli. Why did she resign? She should have faced Parliament, and by resigning she is trying to divert the people's attention from the failures of the Government."

Congress panicked: Jaitley

On the alleged Government plan to bring in an Ordinance with retrospective effect to exempt certain offices from being declared offices of profit, general secretary Arun Jaitley said the BJP objected to the "subverting of the Constitution and Parliament" to "save" one person from disqualification. By resigning, Ms. Gandhi had tried to "save her face."

He compared her to a "culprit caught red-handed" but admitted that the "legal and constitutional" aspect whether the NAC was an office of profit was not very clear.

His view was that the Congress suffered a bout of "panic" when complaints were made about Ms. Gandhi.

On whether the party's deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, V.K. Malhotra, and other MPs and MLAs who might face similar charges would resign, Mr. Jaitley said it would be up to the leaders to take their decisions.

Separately, some party leaders confirmed that there was no move by the party to ask its affected MPs and MLAs to resign. On the need to amend the law on office of profit, Mr. Jaitley said, "The BJP does not favour legislation with retrospective affect."

JD(U) welcomes move

Some National Democratic Alliance parties did not see eye-to-eye with the BJP on the issue. Janata Dal (United) spokesperson Shambhu Srivastava "welcomed" Ms. Gandhi's decision to resign.

In fact, he added that Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee too should resign. This was also the view of the Trinamool Congress, which was the first to charge the Speaker with holding an office of profit.

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