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Last Updated: Friday, 19 March, 2004, 14:13 GMT
Indian poll row over Nehru book
By Zubair Ahmed
BBC correspondent in Bombay

Sonia Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. AFP and AP pictures
There are calls for an apology from Sonia Gandhi over Nehru's book
Politicians in western India have called for a nationwide ban on a book written 60 years ago by the country's first premier, Jawaharlal Nehru.

Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state of Maharashtra say the history book demeans the 17th century warrior Shivaji.

Many observers believe the row is based more on current politics than history.

Nehru belonged to the Congress Party, the main opponents of the BJP in next month's general election.

His book has long been considered a classic potted history of India.

But the BJP says it contains objectionable words about Shivaji.

There have even been calls for an apology from Congress leader Sonia Gandhi.

Latest twist

Matters are further complicated by the fact that the version of Nehru's book that allegedly contains the controversial paragraphs was released in 1986 by Mrs Gandhi's late husband, Rajiv, Nehru's grandson.

The BJP says it is part of a Congress plot to taint Shivaji's memory.

Congress and its splinter group, the Nationalist Congress Party, control the state.

The latest twist comes just weeks after Congress donned the mantle of Shivaji's protector by imposing a ban in Maharashtra on a book on him written by American scholar James Layne.

That move was criticised by the BJP's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Nehru's book, Discovery of India, was written in the early 1940s and Shivaji lived nearly 400 years ago, but with a general election just eight weeks away, any ammunition will be used.

Maharashtra is a vital political battleground with forty-eight parliamentary seats.

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