Sonia Gandhi Referring to Vajpayee's Dealing with Crisis Underscores Her Ties with Present Govt
New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday invoked former Prime Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee to attack the Narendra Modi government on its handling of the Delhi riots over the last 72 hours.
Addressing her first structured press conference at party headquarters ever since she took charge after the Lok Sabh debacle last year, Gandhi demanded Home Minister Amit Shah’s resignation as she referred to a more inclusive approach adopted by the late PM in the face of a situation like the one prevailing in Delhi.
“Earlier, PM Vajpayee used to call all party leaders during times of crisis. He used to lead those meetings, but sadly since 2014, no such meeting has been called by the (Narendra) Modi government,” the Congress president said in response to a question on the violence.
As the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha when Vajpayee was in the PM’s chair, Gandhi had maintained a healthy working relationship with the BJP leadership.
Mostly, she used to the opposition charge against the then NDA government, accusing the treasury benches of selling ‘mungeri lal ke haseen sapne’ (false dreams). She even read out a 10-point charge-sheet against the government.
However, beneath this trenchant criticism, there remained a kind of restrained connect between the two leaders. In fact, many accused Vajpayee of being soft on Gandhi, like during the Bofors issue or when Maneka Gandhi was removed from the culture ministry.
Some personal touches with Vajpayee had helped build up a warm relation between the two. In 2001, he sent her to the US as part of a delegation. This was seen as a good gesture, which sources say, touched her.
In 2003, when Vajpayee hosted a tea party on Women’s Day, Gandhi was present at the PM’s house with (late Congress leader) Sheila Dikshit.
Those who attended the event recall that while Dikshit was relaxed, Gandhi looked visibly uncomfortable. Vajpayee broke the ice by ordering a ‘chaat’ for her.
In fact, Vajpayee shared personal relations with Rajiv Gandhi. The late PM had facilitated Vajpayee‘s travel to the US for a kidney ailment treatment. Vajpayee had once narrated that after the Parliament attack, a worried Gandhi had called him to check where he was and if he was safe.
On Wednesday, when Gandhi referred to the BJP stalwart at the press conference and said that since 2014, the Modi government has never bothered to call an all-party meeting, it underscores her relationship with the present dispensation.
In 2007, while campaigning for the Gujarat elections, she had called Modi (the then chief minister of the state) ‘maut ka saudagar’. The two leaders also haven’t made much effort to reach out to each other in the last seven years.