New Delhi, Mar 21: Touching the raw nerve of the ruling UPA, BJP prime ministerial candidate Lal Krishna Advani has said Congress president Sonia Gandhi alone can clarify as to why she forsook the premiership in 2004.
Mr Advani in his last book 'My Country My Life', while analysing the defeat of the BJP in the last Lok Sabha polls, recalled that soon after the NDA lost the 2004 general elections getting a mere 186 seats, which was a loss of 118 seats in comparison to the 1999 elections, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had tendered his resignation noting that his party and the NDA might have lost but India and the Indian democracy had emerged victorious.
The ruling UPA coalition came into existence in the next few days but there was some 'unexpected drama' over the choice of the new Prime Minister. President A P J Abdul Kalam invited Ms Gandhi for discussion on the government formation in her capacity as the leader of the single largest party in the Lower House of Parliament.
The Congress had fought the elections under her leadership and none was even remotely projected as a candidate to shoulder the high responsiblity. After her meeting with the President, she told the media that she needed more time to form a government.
On May 18 after the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting, she sprang a surprise by invoking her 'inner voice' and backing out from the Prime Ministerial race. She nominated Dr Manmohan Singh for the post.
Ms Gandhi claimed that she never wanted to be PM and her partymen in a well-orchestrated campaign trumpeted it as a 'great sacrifice' on her part. The claim was under question on two counts.
First, it was contradicted by her own audacious assertion made before the Rashtrapati Bhavan on April 21, 1999 that she was going to form a government and had the support of '272 MPs' for doing so.
Second, the developments showed, far from renouncing power, she started to wield more power than Dr Singh by chairing a specially created body called the National Advisory Council exercising power from this 'rather unconstitutional platform', remaining outside the pale of accountablity to Parliament.
Mr Advani conceded that truly some of his party colleagues reacted strongly to the prospect of a person of foreign origin being sworn as India's PM.
The BJP's stand on the issue was not 'personality centric but principle centric.' We were and we continue to be opposed to a person from foreign origin occupying high constitutional offices in India. We have neither hidden nor changed our view on this matter.
Nevertheless, I was surprised when an international media comment that the 'campaign denying her (Mrs Gandhi) the premiership was a defeat for Indian democracy'. To describe the BJP's nationalist approach to this matter as racism itself betrays racist mindset, Mr Advani wrote.