Speaking at the Virbhadra Singh government's jamboree celebrating two and a half years in office, All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary and head of the state party Ambika Soni launched a scathing attack on the BJP-led NDA government over the Lalit Modi affair and the row over HRD minister Smirit Irani's 'fake' degrees.
"Irani has no moral right to continue as minister of the department entrusted with handling education. What will she do for education when she's herself not competent for the job and gave contradictory information about her educational qualifications in her election affidavit?" asked Soni.
She accused the Modi government of "shielding" Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj in the brouhaha over former Indian Premier League czar Lalit Modi. "The government that was boasting no case of corruption was reported during its first year in office is now trying to shield its corrupt ministers," said Soni.
Soni also condemned the NDA government for slashing funding for foodgrain supplies to Himachal under the Food Security Act. "The central government has also curtailed the budget on education and healthcare, which will have long-term adverse effects on the state's residents. Besides, the 'one rank one pension' scheme for which the previous Congress party-led UPA government had made provisions, is still not in place. (Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi's son) Rahul Gandhi has been persistently raising this issue and the party will press the NDA government to implement the scheme in letter and spirit," she added
Calling the Land Acquisition Bill introduced by the NDA government "anti-farmer", Soni said the Congress party would oppose it "tooth and nail". Praising the Himachal government, she claimed it had implemented various public welfare schemes in the state.
Addressing the gathering, Virbhadra listed various "achievements" of his government during the two and a half years and the various new welfare schemes being implemented. "Despite rising inflation the government has been distributing low-priced rations by spending Rs 210 crore on subsidies. The tall promises made by the NDA government have fallen flat. One should only make promises that can be fulfilled and not play with the public's sentiments merely for political gains," he added.
Condemning the opposition BJP, Virbhadra said while the Congress party-led government in the state was "celebrating" two and a half years in office BJP leaders were "busy in Shimla submitting a charge sheet against me to the governor's secretary. They have nothing better to do except criticise me. Though healthy criticism is always welcome the opposition here has always indulged in mudslinging. Even during assembly sessions they (opposition leaders) were mostly seen outside the house shouting slogans rather than participating in discussions to speed up the state's development," he added.
Among others who spoke on the occasion were Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, irrigation and public health minister Vidya Stokes, health minister GS Bali, AICC secretary Rakesh Kalia and even transport minister GS Bali, who has recently been embroiled in differences with the chief minister.
Most of them touted the government's "achievements" with some accusing the opposition BJP of "implicating" Virbhadra and other cabinet ministers in "fabricated cases".
Industry minister Mukesh Agnihotri welcomed the dignitaries and spoke at length about the various development projects floated in Una district during the current Congress party rule.
Besides the entire cabinet, AICC secretary Raja Ram Pal, Himachal Youth Congress president Vikramaditya Singh (Virbhadra's son), chief parliamentary secretaries, MLAs as well as chairmen and vice-chairmen of various government boards and corporations were also present at the function. Earlier, Congress party workers took out a procession in the town.