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Key UPA-era leaders close ranks

Party insiders said the seniors’ move to label members of the young brigade as critics of Manmohan Singh’s legacy was aimed at isolating some Team Rahul members because the Congress brass can’t afford to let the achievements of the UPA era to be dragged into ugly infighting.

india Updated: Aug 02, 2020 01:35 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi
UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi (PTI)

Key leaders of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) closed ranks on Saturday and attempted to project the “junior versus seniors” fight as an attempt by some Rahul Gandhi aides, who held the UPA responsible for the declining fortunes of the Congress, to undermine the legacy of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Shashi Tharoor and Milind Deora, who both served as ministers in the UPA regime, came out on Twitter to support former information and broadcasting minister, the Congress’s Manish Tewari,who wrote on the microblogging site this week that the question whether the former ruling coalition had been sabotaged from within must be gone into.

Another UPA-era minister, Anand Sharma, wrote 11 tweets to say that “honest introspection” was always helpful and “Congressmen must be proud of UPA’s legacy.”

Party insiders said the seniors’ move to label members of the young brigade as critics of Manmohan Singh’s legacy was aimed at isolating some Team Rahul members because the Congress brass can’t afford to let the achievements of the UPA era to be dragged into ugly infighting.

“No party disowns or discredits its legacy,” Sharma wrote. “Nobody expects the BJP {Bharatiya Janata Party} to be charitable and give us credit but our own should respect and not forget”.

Deora invoked Manmohan Singh’s words—”history will be kinder to me”—to say, “Could he have ever imagined that some from his own party would dismiss his years of service to the nation & seek to destroy his legacy - that, too, in his presence”.

Tewari, who had lashed out at Congres MP Rajiv Satav on Friday, continued his attacks. “BJP was out of power for 10 years. Not once did they ever blame {Atal Bihari} Vajpayee or his government for their then predicaments. In @INCIndia unfortunately some ill–informed would rather take swipes at Dr. Manmohan Singh led UPA govt than fight NDA/BJP. When unity reqd (required) they divide,” he tweeted.

Tharoor supported both Tewari and Deora and tweeted, “UPA’s transformative ten years were distorted & traduced by a motivated & malicious narrative. There’s plenty to learn from our defeats & much to be done to revive @INCIndia. But not by playing into the hands of our ideological enemies.”

Many team Rahul leaders have been critical of the second term of Manmohan Singh as allegations of corruption -- in the allocation of 2G telecom spectrum and coal blocks, for instance -- let the Congress down in the 2014 elections, when the party won its lowest ever tally of 44 seats in Lok Sabha.

But senior leaders point out that all allegations were dismissed in the courts and the hallmark of Singh’s government was rights-based legislation that brought about social empowerment.

On Thursday, at a meeting of Rajya Sabha MPs with party chief Sonia Gandhi, when Congress veteran Kapil Sibal called for introspection, party MP Rajeev Satav retorted, “People who are asking for introspect should have introspected much earlier. UPA 2 brought Congress down to 44 MPs.”

Later, KC Venugopal also countered former finance minister P Chidambaram and accused the seniors of not backing Rahul Gandhi.

As the Team UPA versus Team Rahul tussle escalated on Saturday, a Congress leader did not rule out the possibility of some seniors approaching or writing to the leadership about attempts by a section of young leaders to “demean” Manmohan Singh and his team of ministers.

“If we dropped to 44, it was a collective responsibility. You cannot single out the UPA government and absolve the party organisation of its responsibilities,” the Congress leader said, requesting anonymity.

“Also, you cannot demean a person of the stature of Dr Singh who has all along displayed grace and dignity. I am surprised that the person (Rajeev Satav) was not rebutted by seven UPA ministers present in the meeting,” the leader added.

Sharma, too, showered praise on Manmohan Singh and pointed out that the need of the hour was to fight the BJP. He listed major achievements—unprecedented social and economic transformation and empowerment of the poor and vulnerable Indians, the rural job guarantee programme and the Right to Food legislation,and rapid economic growth -- during the UPA regime.

The UPA government was a “victim of a grand political conspiracy and malicious disinformation campaign of the BJP, political opponents and powerful vested interests,” he said.

“Congress as a democratic party is always open to a debate on its achievements and failures. Honest introspection and analysis are always helpful and gives strength to move forward,” he tweeted, “History will honestly record the commendable contribution of former PM Dr Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi. The two leaders led India to a decade of compassionate and inclusive growth which all of us are proud of.”

Late Saturday evening, Rajeev Satav, too took to Twitter to hit back. “The malicious attempt to draw Dr Manmohan Singh into this exchange is reprehensible. To say my observations cast a shadow over Dr Singh’s leadership of UPA II is a lie, a total misrepresentation of facts. I hold Dr Singh in high esteem. He is above reproach,” Satav said, adding that he will discuss his comments “or those made by any other esteemed colleagues, on internal party forums only.”

In a series of tweets, he maintained that the meeting of Congress’ Rajya Sabha MPs with Sonia Gandhi was “extremely fruitful” and said party has given many platforms “to voice our views freely”.

He claimed that he has never been comfortable discussing internal discussions publicly but added that as “a few of my esteemed colleagues and seniors have reacted on social media” it has compelled him to clear the air.

Satav hailed UPAII as a “good govt, people’s govt” and said, “The success of UPA II is reinforced when we compare it to the sharp slide under Modi. Elections are on the anvil in Bihar& Assam. BJP’s misdeeds have piled up. We need to jointly stand together under the leadership of Soniaji,Dr Singhji,Rahul Ji”

He also praised Singh for his “commendable contributions to building modern India. He will always be held in high regard.”

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