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PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Shekhawat must step down, says Congress

Thursday 28 June 2007

Special Correspondent

Attacks Advani for calling UPA Presidential nominee “tainted”

NEW DELHI: The Congress on Wednesday attacked Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani for calling UPA Presidential nominee Pratibha Patil “tainted.”

The party also suggested that Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, contesting as independent, step down as Vice-President following the moral standards set by Ms. Patil. “Although there is no constitutional bar, I feel it is a matter of moral standards. Just as she [Ms. Patil] had stepped down as Governor [before becoming a candidate], he too should resign,” Union Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi, who is coordinating the UPA campaign, said at a briefing.

Taking objection to Mr. Advani’s speech at a BJP meet, where he referred to Ms. Patil as “tainted,” Mr. Dasmunsi sought to know how such baseless allegations could be made when there was not a single case against the UPA-Left candidate in which she had either been charged or even been inquired into.

In an obvious reference to the BJP leader, he said Ms. Patil had not even had to face an inquiry commission.

He demanded that Mr. Advani withdraw his remarks and maintain restraint. He said while the BJP leader attacked Ms. Patil, neither party chief Rajnath Singh nor National Democratic Alliance chairman Atal Bihari Vajpayee made any reference against Ms. Patil or in support of Mr. Shekhawat.

He criticised Mr. Advani for also saying that the BJP would ask the people to exert pressure on MPs/MLAs to cast a conscience vote. “Dangerous”

This is dangerous. While in an election you can appeal, electors are not pressurised. Asking the people to mount pressure on MPs/MLAs shows the fascist face [of the BJP leader] and also that he is frustrated. The Election Commission should also take note since it involved the safety of each member of the Electoral College.

Mr. Dasmunsi invited the BJP leader to start his “rath yatra” from the Minister’s Raigunj parliamentary constituency.

On the BJP’s move to rope in suspended Congress MP Natwar Singh to endorse Mr. Shekhawat’s candidature, Mr. Dasmunsi said it was the BJP that demanded Mr. Singh’s resignation in Parliament following the Volcker report and also initiated a debate against him.

Congress/UPA poll managers were confident that Ms. Patil would romp home.

As of now, the UPA along with support from the Left, the BSP and others have some 5.81 lakh votes against the BJP/NDA’s 3.44 lakh votes.

The SP, the AIADMK and the Shiv Sena account for about one lakh votes and the TDP some 14,000 votes in an electoral college with a vote value of 10.98 lakh.

See online : The Hindu

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