At the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on Tuesday, party president Sonia Gandhi adopted an aggressive stance and sent a strong message while backing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent economic policy decisions that allowed 51 per cent foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, apart from putting a cap on subsidised LPG cylinders and hiking diesel price to narrow down India’s gaping fiscal deficit.
A combative Sonia said that there was no threat to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government while blaming the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for playing “negative politics” over the reforms. She added that the need of the hour was to improve the economy.
The Congress President without taking names pointed out that even though the Trinamool Congress had withdrawn its support from UPA, two Uttar Pradesh-based parties – Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party – have reiterated their outside support to the Manmohan Singh government.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, too, said that the Congress should stand united to confront the Opposition over the reforms. The backing of the reforms process comes as a shot in the arm for the Prime Minister as apart from the Opposition and some Congress allies even a few party leaders like Vyalar Ravi, KV Thomas, Virbahdra Singh, the Kerala and the Karnataka units had objected to some of the decisions announced by him.
At the meeting, Manmohan Singh as well as Finance Minister P Chidambaram made it clear that the country’s financial condition needs to improve and reforms must be undertaken for funding social sector schemes.
Chidambaram said that the Indian economy can only improve if the government ensured improvement in productivity, higher investments, curbed inflation and cut subsidies. He said that tough decisions were crucial to bring the economy back on track while justifying the recent economic decisions, some of which have been used by the Opposition to target the government.
Congress leader Janardhan Dwivedi, who addressed the media after the meet, said that the Congress had decided to take out rallies across the country in support of FDI and to explain the rationale behind the recent reforms to the people.
The meeting was scheduled to be attended by 35 Congress leaders but only 29 could make it with the notable absentee including Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit was one of the special invitee.
The BJP lost no time in criticising the meet and the endorsement of the reforms process. BJP leader Rajnath Singh compared the Congress to East India Company and said that it was exploiting the poor just like the British company did.
“We are working as the security guard of the country’s treasure. The Congress has been governing India since independence. It is responsible for the economic scenario of the country. It understands that FDI in retail will affect the farmers and small retail businessmen. It is trying to make a situation similar to when East India Company came to India. We will not let this happen,” he said.
Prakash Javadekar said that the Congress had played with the emotions of the Telangana activists by not taking up their demand for separate statehood at the meet as it had promised. “The Congress has always betrayed the feeling and emotions of the Telangana activists. The Congress promised that the process of separation of Telangana will start very soon but it didn’t do so. We promise that we will grant Telangana’s separate statehood demand within 100 days of coming in power,” he said.
When asked about Sonia’s remark against the BJP, Javadekar refused to comment, only saying that it would be ‘looked into’.