New Delhi: A day ahead of the second phase of Lok Sabha polls, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot courted controversy on Wednesday after he accused the BJP of mistreating veteran leader LK Advani, saying the party denied him office of the President and pushed for Ram Nath Kovind, a Dalit, instead for “vote bank politics”.
The senior Congress leader claimed that Advani was not made the President because of the saffron party’s unsure footing in Gujarat ahead of the Assembly election in the state in 2017.
During the presidential election of 2017, the ruling NDA had nominated Ram Nath Kovind, the former Bihar Governor and Rajya Sabha MP, who emerged victorious and became the 14th President of India. At that time, there was much speculation around the possibility of Advani getting nominated for the post.
“First there was buzz that LK Advani would be made President, but BJP was afraid that it would lose Gujarat. So for vote-bank politics Advani was denied the highest office and a Dalit was chosen as the President,” Gehlot said.
However, Gehlot also sought to maintain distance from this view and said that he read about the issue and felt it was true.
This is not the first time Gehlot has taken a jibe at the BJP for sidelining party patriarch Advani this election season. In March, the Rajasthan CM said that the saffron party pushed for a ‘Congress-free country’ but has created an ‘Advani-free India’ instead.
Reacting sharply, the BJP deemed Gehlot’s comments as ‘unacceptable’ and ‘condemnable’ and called it an ‘attack on society and the Dalit community’, further demanding an apology. “We demand strong action from the Congress party,” BJP leader GVL Narasimha Rao said on Tuesday.
The ruling party also accused Gehlot of insulting President Kovind and urged the election Commission(EC) to take swift action against him. “This is an attack on the Constitution, on the custodian of the Constitution,” Rao said, reiterating that the Congress had also insulted Dr BR Ambedkar in the past.
“We urge the EC to protect the highest constitutional position of the country. There should be no political statements against the President of the nation,” he added.