CPP General Body Meeting, Central Hall, Parliament House
Monday, 13th December, 2010
Address of the Chairperson, Smt. Sonia Gandhi
We meet on the anniversary of the dastardly attack on our Parliament. We remember and salute all those who lost their lives. The recent blast in Varanasi is a reminder that the forces of terrorism are very much there and active and that our vigil must remain constant.
We are assembled this morning in the last day of this session of Parliament. It is most regrettable that the whole session has been so unproductive. Except for financial business, no other business was transacted. The people of India will be entirely justified if they take a dim view of the manner in which the opposition, especially the principal opposition party, has disrupted every day of the session.. This has been the pattern from the day that the BJP was voted out of office in 2004. From the very first session of the 14th Lok Sabha to the current one - every session has been disrupted on several days. It has required an enormous effort to pass essential government business.
We should ask ourselves, what is the issue here? There was a report of the C&AG on the allocation of 2G-Spectrum two years ago. Within two days of the submission of the report and even before it was placed in Parliament, the Minister concerned resigned. Once the report was placed in Parliament, in accordance with the rules, it stood automatically referred to the Public Accounts Committee. The PAC is a Committee of both Houses of Parliament and is chaired by a Member of the Opposition. It is a well-known fact that the PAC has already started its work.
The leader of the House, Pranabh Mukherjee, has met with leaders of the Opposition twice and has even offered to attach to the PAC a multi- disciplinary probe agency to support it in its work, but to no avail. Side by side, there is a case registered by the CBI. That was done in September 2009. The CBI has made it clear that it will complete its investigation and file its final report by March 2011. Meanwhile, the CBI has also told the Supreme Court that it has no objection to the investigation being monitored by the Supreme Court. Since the case is sub judice, I shall not comment on it. Last week, the Government also constituted a one-man enquiry committee headed by a retired Judge of the Supreme Court to look into the question of alleged irregularities in the allocation of 2-G spectrum and submit its report within a month. So you will see that the problem is being addressed in several ways. First there is an examination by the PAC. Second, there is an investigation by the CBI. And third, a retired Judge is looking into the administrative and procedural lapses. It is abundantly clear that Government is determined to get to the root of the matter. It is preposterous to suggest that the Government has something to hide or it is shying away from investigation. Let me reiterate in the clearest terms: our Government has nothing to hide, our Government has nothing to fear. Our concerns are that we should not undermine the established institutions such as the PAC and the CBI. Nor should we do anything that will denigrate the institution of the Prime Minister. We cannot sacrifice institutions at the altar of political expediency.
I also wish to touch upon the issue of corruption or any other official misconduct. It is a painful fact that corruption seems to be widespread and I feel strongly that it is our responsibility as well as that of each and every political party to together, seriously devise a way - a mechanism to curb this growing menace, On its part, the Congress has always stood for transparency and probity, and we have made it clear that there will be absolutely no tolerance for corruption or misconduct. Even when no charge has been established or no misconduct has been proved, we have asked Ministers and Chief Ministers to step down, pending an enquiry.
How many other parties can make such claim? Can the BJP make the same claim in Karnataka where corruption is rampant? This unfortunately is not an isolated case. Let us not forget that it was during the BJP-led NDA, that a senior Minister resigned on the Defence scam being exposed, but was reinstated even as the enquiry was underway. And what about some of the leaders in the same party caught in camera taking money and later rehabilitated? The list is endless! I would like to urge all our Party workers to explain to the people all these facts and expose the Opposition's double standards and double speak, particularly the BJP, In spite of some forces placing formidable obstacles to good governance under the Prime Minister's leadership, India has weathered the international financial crisis that crippled so much of the global economy. Economic growth revived after a short hiatus, and we have recorded. 8.9% growth in GDP in the first half of 2010-2011.
But even as we take pride in this impressive performance, we do not forget that our goal is to bring progress and prosperity in the lives of the common people especially the poor and the marginalized. That is why, since the formation of the UPA Government, we have passed landmark legislations, the more recent one being the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, which has become a legal and enforceable right since April 1, 2010. The Right to Food, is at an advanced stage of consideration, and hopefully will be enshrined in the Food Security Act soon. Historic programmes such as the Mahatma Gandhi NRHGS, the loan waver to farmers, the Mid-day meal, the Pension Schemes for Old Persons, Widows and the Differently-abled and the Rashtriya Swasthiya Bima Yojana have been vastly expanded to bring within their fold more beneficiaries. We have paid special attention to village roads, drinking water, sanitation and primary health care. As you are aware, most of these schemes are implemented through the State Governments. We have devolved huge funds upon the State Governments without any discrimination or bias whatsoever. It is for us all to take the message of these programmes to the four corners of the country and wherever necessary to put pressure on state Governments and local administrations to ensure that their benefits reach the people for whom they are intended.
The people of India voted the Congress to load the Central Government once again in 2009 based on the performance of our first term. They have high expectations from us. It is their legitimate right to do so. We have to work with greater determination in order to deliver on our promises and redeem our pledges to them. I compliment the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh for his wise leadership, for remaining calm amidst the storm, and for his unwavering devotion to the progress and prosperity of the nation. The Party stands solidly behind him in his endeavours.
As I have said before, we did not have much expectation from Bihar. We will have to build the party there from scratch. It is a challenge. Although we are disappointed with the dismal results, there can be no room for despondency or demoralization. Our Party has faced tremendous challenges in its long history of 125 years and yet it has never lacked in courage and determination to rebuild itself. We will most certainly do that wherever it is necessary.
The paddy crop has been harvested. In some parts of the country particularly in UP and Bihar, the minimum support price purchases are not taking place, forcing farmers to make distress sales. Here is where our Party workers must intervene. Heavy rains in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and other States have caused destruction of crops.
It is our duty to reach out to the affected people and see that they are given adequate relief. It is only by being with the people, by raising our voices on their behalf, by empathizing proactively with their problems that their faith in us, in our Party will be sustained and strengthened.
I look forward to meeting you in a few days time for the plenary session of the AICC.