THE CONGRESS VIEW ON PRESENT SITUATION - 1
Freedom is our birth right. After remaining under colonial rule for nearly 200 years, the people of India rediscovered their right to freedom under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress. The Indian National Congress led India’s struggle for freedom; won Independence on August 15, 1947; steered the making of the Constitution of India which was adopted on January 26, 1950; and laid the foundations for the democratic and parliamentary form of government.
2. Article 1 of the Indian National Congress states that the object of the party is the establishment of a socialist State based on Parliamentary democracy.
3. The essence of our democracy is representative government. People elect their representatives to Parliament, to State Legislatures, to municipalities and to panchayats. No government can be a good government unless it is a representative government. Free and fair election is the only mode of electing representative governments.
4. Since Independence, there have been successive governments both at the Centre and in the States. Every political party in India has been in one government or another at some time during the last 64 years. The people have voted governments out of power as well as voted governments back to power.
5. The election to the Lok Sabha 2004 was a watershed election. After experiencing two BJP-led governments for six years, the people of India voted out the BJP and gave a mandate to the Congress and its allies. It was a limited mandate, the Congress winning only 145 seats; yet it was an unambiguous mandate to form, together with its allies, a secular, liberal and progressive government that will promote faster and more inclusive growth. If the verdict of 2004 was significant, the verdict at the next elections in 2009 was even more significant. The people of India reduced the representation of the BJP in the Lok Sabha (from 138 to 116) and increased the representation of the Congress (from 145 to 206). The Congress got not only a renewed mandate, but an enlarged mandate to build the country in accordance with its declared vision.
6. In the last 7 years (five years of UPA-I and two years of UPA-II), the Congress has provided good governance.
7. In April-May, 2011, four States and one Union Territory went to the polls. 824 Assembly seats were at stake. The Congress was an important player in all the four States and the lone Union Territory. It contested 354 seats and won 171 seats and its allies in the different States won 243 seats. The BJP, which is the principal opposition party and nurses ambitions of becoming the ruling party, contested 411 seats and won 5 seats! Although elections in States do not amount to a referendum on the performance of the Central Government, they are crucial indicators of the mood of the people.
8. In recent months, the issue of corruption has generated considerable debate. The Congress President, addressing the AICC session at Burari on 18th December 2010 said: “There should be no tolerance of corruption or misconduct. We have demonstrated this through our actions. Even when no charge has been established, we have asked our ministers and our Chief Ministers to step down pending enquiry”. How many other parties can make such a claim? Can the BJP do so in regard to Karnataka where corruption is rampant or other States?”
9. Along with corruption, issues have been raised regarding ‘black money’.
10. Many of the demands raised by different persons are ill-informed and baseless. For example, to suggest that ‘400 lakh crore rupees is stashed abroad’ is a preposterous claim. Many such absurd claims have been made. For example, the BJP has claimed that black money was between Rs.11,25,000 crore to Rs.22,50,000 crore (USD 250 billion – 500 billion). Suddenly, the amount jumps from about 22 lakh crore rupees to 400 lakh crore rupees! Also, to suggest that the Indian rupee can equal US dollar 50 betrays one’s colossal ignorance. To demand that currency notes of denomination of Rs.1000 and Rs.500 should be demonetised is not only impractical but fraught with grave consequences.
11. Nevertheless, the Government has encouraged a debate on these issues and engaged a number of people in constructive dialogue. The Government has also outlined its approach to addressing these issues and taking concrete steps that will benefit the economy and the country.
12. Let us make it clear: The Congress party and the governments that it leads at the Centre and the States are committed to good governance. The Congress party is implacably opposed to corruption and will not hesitate to take stern and exemplary action against any one who is found to be corrupt. The party that should hang its head in shame is the BJP. Several ministers of the BJP have been charged with corruption in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat. A former National President of the BJP faces a charge of accepting bribes. The government in Karnataka today is a byword for corruption.
13. In recent months, the Congress party has taken a number of steps that will clearly manifest its intentions. For example, the Government is engaged in drafting a strong and sound Lokpal Bill that will be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament. It has entrusted grave allegations of corruption that may involve people in high places to investigation by the CBI. It has welcomed the Supreme Court’s oversight of the investigations. The Government has ratified the UN Convention Against Corruption. It has introduced a Bill to punish bribery of foreign public officials.
14. The Government has taken the following steps to address the issue of 'black money':
• Under UPA-I, a tough law called the Prevention of Money Laundering Act was enacted and it contains provisions for confiscation of property;
• Under UPA-II, Rs.18,750 crore has been unearthed in income tax searches, Rs.12,000 crore in income tax surveys and Rs.33,784 crore in mispricing of goods and services. Rs. 22,697 crore of taxes collected due to special attention on cross border transactions and business deal;
• Three national-level institutions have been tasked to estimate the extent of black money;
• Based on information provided by Germany, the income of the 18 individuals was brought to tax;
• Action has been taken against high profile tax evaders such as Hasan Ali Khan, Madhu Koda and B Ramalinga Raju;
• The proposed Direct Taxes Code will bring transparency to, and oblige reporting of, accounts held abroad;
• Several existing laws and the proposed Direct Taxes Code have provisions in respect of tax-evaded income with powers to charge tax, interest and penalty which together would be more than the evaded income (black money). This amounts to confiscation of the total amount of the black money that was detected;
• Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements have been entered into with 27 countries (including Switzerland) and Tax Information Exchange Agreements with 10 countries.
• Agreement has been reached with Mauritius to review the DTAA with that country; and
• A Directorate of Criminal Investigation has been set up in the Income Tax Department.
• An Exchange of Information (EOI) cell has been set up in the Income Tax Department;
• A High Level Committee has been set up to coordinate among various departments/agencies of the government for information sharing, to check generation of illicit financial outflows from India;
• Another high powered eight-member Committee has been set up to examine ways for strengthening laws to curb generation of black money and prevent its transfer abroad, besides recovering such illegal assets;
15. While action on corruption and black money is indeed important, we must not forget that the main objectives of good government are inclusive growth, development, employment and abolition of poverty. There are also other social objectives such as gender equality, sustainable development, preservation of the environment and the eco-system etc. The UPA government, in the last 7 years, has taken historical initiatives to further these objectives and to benefit the aam aadmi. Among them are the Right to Information Act; Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) ; the Right to Education Act; the universalisation of primary education and anganwadi centres; pensions to the elderly, disabled and widows; Swastha Bima Yojana (health insurance); expansion of scholarships for SC, ST and the minorities; and higher MSP for agricultural products and low-interest farm loans. The path-breaking Right to Food Security Act will be passed shortly.
16. The policies and programmes of the UPA have brought unprecedented economic growth. In the five years of UPA-I, growth averaged 8.5 per cent per year and in the two years of UPA-II, despite an adverse international environment; growth has averaged 8.3 per cent per year. As a result, huge amounts of money have been distributed to the States as share of taxes, grants and loans. For example, the total amount distributed to all the States in 2010-11 was Rs 445916 crore compared to Rs 146305 crore distributed in 2003-04 which was the last year of the NDA government. For the year 2011-12, the total amount to be distributed to the states will be Rs 512155 crore. The Congress party remains committed to good governance that will lead to high and inclusive growth and social justice.
17. The Congress party wishes to caution the people on the dangers of communalism, religious fundamentalism and right-wing extremism. It is these forces that create the conditions for the rise of terrorism. Anticipating the danger, the Congress party, in a pledge made on the eve of elections and titled ‘Protecting India From Terror’ said: “If we do not vanquish communal agendas of all kinds, we cannot hope to vanquish terrorism.” After the Mumbai terror attacks, UPA-I and UPA-II took a number of decisive steps to confront both communalism and terrorism. The amendment of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the creation of the National Investigation Agency, the setting up of the Multi Agency Centre (MAC) and the Subsidiary MAC (SMACs) and a number of other measures have demonstrated our resolve to face the twin challenges. Thanks to these measures, there has been only one major terrorist incident – in Pune – in the last 30 months. There has also been no significant communal conflict anywhere in India during this period. A number of organisations that have a communal-terrorist agenda have been banned. A number of modules that conspired to trigger communal conflicts or carry out terrorist attacks have been neutralised. Any impartial observer would agree that the security of India – both internal and external – has been enhanced in the last 30 months.
18. The forces of communalism, fundamentalism and extremism don different masks at different times. They seize every opportunity to push their sinister agenda. They embrace every cause and support every protest, however dubious, as long as they can gain some political mileage. Right wing fundamentalist forces are currently under pressure for two reasons. The first reason is they have lost political ground and are unable to win elections. The second reason is they have been found out and are now accused in several terrorist cases including the bomb blasts in Malegaon, Mecca Masjid and the Samjhauta Express.
19. The RSS is the fountain-head of the sinister design to push India into the medieval age. The BJP is its chosen political instrument. The RSS has also spawned a number of frontal organisations to carry out its agenda. No matter how often the RSS and its instrumentalities fail in their attempts to win power through elections, they will try every trick to impose their regressive and reactionary agenda upon the country. The present attempt to denigrate democratic institutions, elections, elected representatives, parliament and parliamentarians, and the Constitution itself – and dub all of these as a failure – is part of their grand design to usurp power through undemocratic means. It is the duty of the Congress party and its millions of workers to carry this message of caution to all parts of India.
20. The nation needs good governance. We cannot remain satisfied with the status quo and we can always do better. The Congress party solemnly renews its pledge to serve the aam aadmi. The Congress party has provided good governance both under UPA-I and UPA-II and pledges itself to continue to provide good governance to the people of India.