The Rs 1,880 crore figure he cited has drawn all-round denials, but with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi having made an issue of Sonia Gandhi’s tours abroad, including for medical treatment, the BJP today went on the offensive. Accusing the Congress of “diverting” issues, the party said that if the money spent wasn’t Rs 1,880 crore, the Congress should just clarify what it was.
Standing by his questions, Modi said he had not asked about Sonia’s illness but about her foreign tours from 2004 (when the UPA came to power) to August 15, 2012. “Soniaji’s illness came into the picture recently. But the questions (under RTI) were asked for three years. And they were only about her travel expenses. One should not make it an emotional issue. I myself tell the PM that the country should bear whatever expenses are needed for Soniaji’s treatment, it’s a human cause. But when a youth has filed an RTI and you take pride over the introduction of RTI, then please give a reply.”
The BJP offensive coincides with Sonia’s rally in Gujarat on Wednesday to launch the Congress campaign for the Assembly elections. The BJP appeared to have decided that offence was its best defence after the newspaper based on whose report Modi had quoted the figure attributed it to a news agency, which too disowned it. Even the RTI petitioner who was said to have received the figure in reply to his application, Haryana-based Ramesh Verma, said he was yet to get a response from the Centre.
“We condemn the Congress party’s approach in diverting and adding issues which have not been raised by Narendra Modi. He has very clearly quoted media sources and raised a question. If you are genuinely interested in answering the question, you would say what was the amount spent,” BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said.
“If it was not Rs 1,880 crore, then what was it, just say. If money was not spent from public exchequer, say so... We also give good wishes for the health of Sonia Gandhi but if expenses were paid from the public treasury, please clarify.”
Modi said he had only raised the issue because newspapers mentioned it. “I read in the newspaper that she (Sonia) spent Rs 1,880 crore for foreign tours, means nearly Rs 2,000 crore... If you want to shut my mouth, then please give the details on the total number of Sonia’s foreign tours