The Congress sought to project a unified front ahead of the 2014 elections, as party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi expressed complete confidence in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and declared that Singh, too, will be part of the party campaign next year.
"All reports suggesting a rift between me and the Prime Minister are baseless….There are no differences. There is collective leadership,” said Sonia. “The Prime Minister is carrying out his responsibilities with great dignity in the face of unrelenting hostility and abuse from the Opposition. We respect him, and we all stand by him,” said Sonia at a function marking the ninth year of the UPA government.
Echoing her sentiments, Rahul said so-called rift between party and PM was a creation of the Opposition. He ruled out taking over as prime minister ahead of the 2014 election. "I have several times made my stand clear on this issue," he told journalists during the dinner that followed the formal event in which a report card to the people, detailing achievements of the UPA, was released.
“Next year, we will directly approach the people and seek a fresh mandate,” the PM said as Sonia's speech set the tone for the next general elections.
“All of us collectively… will all lead the 2014 campaign together," she said to a question whether Rahul would lead the election campaign.
"Why not…Of course I will," Sonia said when asked if she would contest the elections.
Though it is only the third time that a government has completed ninth straight year in office, the celebrations were muted, in fact most subdued in all of the UPA's nine years in power. Between last year and now, the UPA is down two key constituents — the DMK and the TMC — and ceaseless allegations of corruption have left little to celebrate.
The BJP was quick to dismiss the report card as a "non-report card". "It conveniently hides all misdeeds and scams," said spokesperson Prakash Javadekar.
"To our critics I would only say that in many of these areas since the glass was almost empty when we started, it will take some time before it is really full. The important point to note is that it is being filled," the PM said. While both Singh and Congress chief admitted that corruption was a matter of concern, Sonia's aggressive speech sought to turn the tables on the BJP. "We have been uncompromising in our approach to combat this scourge. We have nothing to feel defensive about," she said.
While the PM's speech addressed issues of governance and foreign policy — comparing his government's achievements with those of the NDA's — Sonia's speech was political. She accused the BJP of disrupting Parliament and holding back the important food security and land acquisition laws. "These are not partisan issues. It is not a question of the government versus the opposition. These bills affect the lives and livelihoods of millions whom we are committed to represent and benefit."