Debating India

’Sonia soap queen, PM puppet’

Tuesday 24 May 2005

NEW DELHI: Writing off the UPA government for a "year of non-performance and misrule", Opposition NDA on Tuesday charged the ruling coalition with devaluing the Prime Minister’s office. It demanded that the national advisory council (NAC) headed by Sonia Gandhi be "disbanded or make its chairperson accountable to Parliament and make its work open to scrutiny by parliamentary committees which should have the right to summon NAC members."

Though the NDA decided not to mark the UPA’s performance, it scoffed at the mismatch in the ratings that different quarters within the government gave itself. It alleged Manmohan Singh of being a "weak Prime Minister" even if he was a "good person."

In its 28-page report card, released by NDA chairman and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the BJP-led Opposition took to task the Congress-led government for "criminalisation of governance, misuse of governors, gagging the voice of the Opposition and discriminatory treatment against non-Congress, non-UPA state governments."

Comparing the UPA to the NDA, BJP chief and leader of Opposition L K Advani alleged that the ruling coalition was in a dissary, claiming that in contrast, the high point of the Vajpayee regime was the smooth running of an effective coalition. Highlighting the UPA’s coalition troubles, Advani accused the government being unable to work out a stable economic policy, since "the principal party (Congress) in the coalition and principal ally (Left) of the government are at loggerheads".

Speaking of the RJD and its leader railway minister Lalu Prasad, the NDA took a dig at the government for "giving in to the demands of a tainted minister" and ending up with "denigrating the Constitutional institutions" like the Election Commission and the governor.

Listing the "misdeeds and muscle flexing" of Prasad, including his recent attack on the EC, the NDA said "all this is proof of the power the railway minister wields in this government with a weak Prime Minister remaining a silent spectator in every sordid episode."

Alleging that the real purpose of the NAC was not to tender advice to the government, the NDA said rather it is a "thinly disguised arrangement for someone who the world had been told had "sacrificed power" to exercise enormous power in the UPA government".

The press conference at which the report card was released was addressed by several NDA leaders including Advani, George Fernandes and Nitish Kumar.

"Within one year of its rule, the UPA government has done more damage to the democratic institutions, norms and standards of our polity than any other government in Independent India’s history, barring the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975," the NDA said.

Alleging that the Prime Minister was not in command of his own government, the NDA report card said "the Prime Minister of India is not the CEO of India Inc, stripped of political power that are exercised by some other person." The opposition claimed that the fact that Manmohan Singh was not in command of his government was demonstrated by his "total failure" to rein in Lalu Prasad.

On the criminalisation of governance, the NDA report card said, for the first time in the history of Indian democracy, persons with well known criminal records had become ministers in the government of India. These ministers even today face charges as serious as murder, rape, dacoity and extortion in various courts of law.

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