‘Don’t let others steal credit’
With the Congress riding high on the “truly historic’’ Union Budget, Sonia Gandhi directed party MPs to take the message of the UPA’s achievements to the people ahead of “next year’s’’ general elections and prevent other parties from taking the credit. There were no names mentioned. But the NCP and the Left parties are among those claiming credit for the Rs 60,000-crore farm loan waiver and other initiatives in the Budget.
“The plain truth is that it is our party and our government alone that has taken these bold measures,’’ she told the MPs at the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting on Tuesday, maintaining that the initiatives had nothing to do with elections.
The pro-farmer and pro-people content of the Budget had raised speculation of early general elections but Sonia’s message to her party MPs was to start preparing for “the Lok Sabha polls next year’’ and to go into them with an “outstanding record’’ of the UPA’s achievements, including the loan waiver, NREG, aam aadmi bima schemes, RTI and tribal rights bill. She asked the AICC general secretaries to ensure preparation of a district-wise database of loan beneficiaries as the scheme has to be completed by June. She herself would address rallies organised to hardsell the initiatives. She said the government would hold consultations with political parties soon to bring the women’s quota bill in the Budget session of Parliament. But she made no mention of the India-US nuclear deal on which the Left has threatened to withdraw support.
The Congress chief said she was “deeply disappointed’’ by the party's poor showing in the recent elections in the Northeast. With more state elections coming up, she called on her colleagues to learn from the setbacks, work much harder, select candidates and strategies carefully and show greater unity and discipline.
Attacking the BJP’s “totally negative attitude in Parliament’’, she congratulated Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram for providing a Budget reflecting the interests and needs of all sections. She lauded Singh for the “dignified and brilliant manner in which he completely demolished’’ the BJP’s arguments during the debate on the Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address in Parliament.
“This has provided us with powerful arguments to take on the BJP and its false and malicious propaganda. This is the confident, positive, fact-filled approach we must all adopt in our own speeches and campaigns,” she said.
She noted that since May 2004 “a number of far-reaching measures have been taken to undo the damage caused to the agricultural sector by the BJP-led NDA.’’ Despite the BJP’s attitude the coalition could get several important bills passed, she said. Without naming them, she also hit out at Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and MNS leader Raj Thackeray for the attacks on north Indians in Mumbai. “There have been violent manifestations of bigoted provincialism, deliberately engineered for narrow political ends,’’ she charged.