LAUNCHING its countrywide campaign against corruption in the UPA Government, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on Wednesday sought resignation from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on moral ground. The other option, the NDA said was to face a probe by constituting a Joint Parliamentarian Committee (JPC).
The NDA rally held at the Capital’s Ramlila Grounds was attended by the BJP president Nitin Gadkari, BJP parliamentary party chairman LK Advani, leaders of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, respectively, Arun Jaitley and Mrs Sushma Swaraj, the Janata Dal (United)’s Sharad Yadav, Shiromani Akali Dal leader Dr Ajnala and Anant Geete of Shiv Sena, among others. The NDA had earlier made efforts to rope in the AGP, INLD, BJD and TDP for the countrywide protest rallies. But these parties stayed away from today’s mega rally.
At the Ramlila Grounds, party flags of JD(U), SAD and Shiv Sena shared space with the BJP flag in an otherwise saffron-dominated backdrop. Slogans like: “Ghotale ke hain sarkar, nahin chalegee bhrastachar” rent the air. The meeting that started nearly an hour behind schedule saw BJP and NDA leaders targeting the Prime Minister directly and blaming him for turning a blind eye to corruption.
LK Advani said the NDA’s anti-corruption campaign would go on till the Budget Session of Parliament in February 2011.
Terming 2010 “Year of the Stinking Scams”, former Deputy Prime Minister and NDA working chairman LK Advani also urged Singh to recognise his constitutional power and set up a JPC to probe the scam. He was speaking at the Mahasangram Rally, attended by a 20,000-strong crowd.
Setting the tone for deliberation, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley put forth five questions to the Prime Minister – “Why did industrialists have a say in the decision of Telecom Minister’s appointment? Why were spectrum licences sold to real estate companies/financers instead of telecom companies? Why was a man with tainted track record appointed as CVC even though Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj had vehemently opposed it? Who is responsible for the loss of CBI’s credibility? Had the Opposition not opened up the front against former Telecom Minister A Raja, would he have been removed?”
Jaitley said, “They (real estate firms/financers) made a profit of thousands of crores of rupees overnight by selling the licences to other companies.”
Coming down heavily on the Congress-led Government in general and Singh in particular, Jaitley said that if the PM were honest, he would appear before JPC. “We have challenged him and sought replies from him. If he does not have answers, the PM should resign on moral ground. On the basis of distrust, the Government cannot run,” he said. Singh could not wash his hands of corruption, Jaitley added.
Justifying the Opposition demand for a JPC, he accused the Prime Minister of not using his authority to act against corrupt persons. “The Prime Minister is not using his authority (as granted by the Constitution) and keeps waiting for orders from 10 Janpath (Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s residence)”, he charged. Advani made a “final appeal” to the PM to accede to the Opposition demand. “You have the right to do so. None can stop you (from announcing the JPC),” he said, adding that if the PM failed to constitute JPC, then 2010 would be remembered as “Ghotalo ka varsh” (year of scams).
Firing on all cylinders, both Mrs Swaraj and Jaitley targeted the UPA government. Addressing the PM, Jaitley said: “You must quit if you can’t face a JPC”. He said only a JPC would be able to find out why 2G spectrum was allotted at below market prices in 2008 by the DMK leader and former Communications Minister A Raja. He said if the PM wanted to be out of the ring of suspicion he must come before the JPC.
Justifying the demand for a JPC, Mrs Swaraj said, ” The (Niira) Radia tapes have exposed the stink in the executive, the legislature, the judiciary and the fourth estate, the four pillars of a democracy”. “Neither the Supreme Court nor the PAC can answer the questions we are raising,” she said, adding, “If they have nothing to hide, why are they afraid of a JPC?”
Gadkari asked the PM to respond to charges of corruption. He said Mrs Sonia Gandhi should first put her house in order before levelling charges of corruption against the BJP. The slogan for the NDA’s anti-corruption campaign would be: “Takht badlo Taj badlo, bhrastacharion ka raj badlo”, he declared.
Citing alleged financial irregularities in Commonwealth Games projects, BJP president Nitin Gadkari said that when the Games budget was inflated, the sanctions were granted by the Finance Minister, Group of Ministers, Cabinet and the Prime Minister. “The Congress Ministers have been involved in corruption. So, the party has no right to talk about taking strict action against corruption. First they should put their own house in order,” he said.
Gadkari added, “After raising our voice against corruption in Parliament, we have come to the people of India for justice. It is NDA’s responsibility to expose before the people corruption cases involving Congress leaders.”
Anant Kumar said the next NDA rally would be held in Guwahati (January 9, 2011) followed by Mumbai (January 16). Sharad Yadav said all corrupt persons should go to jail. Dr Ajnala assured the NDA of the Akali Dal’s full support in the fight against corruption. Anant Geete accused the government of diverting attention from the demand for a JPC by branding Hindu outfits as terror groups.
Advani also advised Singh to give up his “no JPC” stance. The campaign against corruption was in a way a campaign against the PM, the senior leader said. “He should appear before JPC and say whatever he wants to say,” he said, adding that he was making “one final appeal” to the PM to accept the Opposition’s demand.
“Though he is the PM and has constitutional powers, he has not been able to work as a PM. For every issue, he has to wait for the nod from 10 Janpath. I appeal to Dr Singh to realise his strength and announce a JPC into the matter…No one can stop him,” Advani said. “As 1947 is called the year of Independence, 1950 the year of Constitution, 1975 the year of Emergency, 2010 will be known as the ‘Year of Stinking Scams’,” Advani added.
Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said the Government was not giving in to the demand for JPC because it feared that this issue would continue to haunt the Government. She aimed her attack on the PM, saying she held him also guilty for the instances of corruption. “The Prime Minister cannot shake off his responsibility…If corruption is taking place under your nose and you don’t do anything, then you are a participant,” she added.
Sushma expressed her astonishment over the Government’s adamant attitude on the matter. “Of the four times when JPC probe was ordered, it happened twice under the NDA regime. On one occasion, I myself ordered a JPC probe to inquire into pesticide residue in soft drinks, fruit juices and other beverages and to set safety standards. Defying the rules, I appointed the Sharad Pawar Committee,” she said.
In his address, Dr Rattan Singh Ajnala of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) blamed the Congress for continuous rise in corruption, illiteracy rate and starvation in the country. “The Congress, which has been looting the nation since 1947, is responsible for India’s poor financial state today. The party did to the country which the Mughals and the British could not do during hundreds of years of their rule,” he added.
“The entire country is terrorised by corruption and the issue is being discussed in every household… They also want a JPC into the 2G spectrum case. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi have been diverting people’s attention by making communal statements,” Geete said. “We will not stop our movement. Mahasangram will continue until Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is removed,” he added.
Present on the occasion were former BJP president Rajnath Singh, former Union HRD Minister Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, senior BJP leaders M Venkaiah Naidu, Dr SS Ahluwalia, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, Vijay Goel, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Gopinath Munde, Arti Mehra, Ananth Kumar, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Chandan Mitra and Vijender Gupta, besides Shiv Sena leader Anant Geete and many others. (FOC)