Bharatiya Janata Party
National Executive Meeting
29-30 May 2006
The Government of the United Progressive Alliance led by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh completed two years in office last week. The anniversary was marked by bloodshed in Jammu & Kashmir, a blood bath in the stock market and a rise in Government-created social tensions across the country. These events were not an exception. They were symptomatic of the great damage inflicted upon the nation and its polity by an opportunistic rag-tag alliance. The UPA ostensibly claims to be in power on the basis of its Common Minimum Programme. However, the real bond holding it together is not a political or economic programme but the motivation of some UPA partners and Left supporters to compromise on values, polices, governance so as to prevent the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies from ruling the country. The objective of the alliance is primarily negative.
The biggest casualty of the UPA government has been governance and its hallmark has been its callous disregard for institutions. The office of the Prime Minister is the nucleus of India’s power. The UPA, however, has evolved a modus of functioning by which the Prime Minister can be stripped of authority. He is not free to choose his Cabinet. He is not free to dictate the policies of his Government. He is now subservient to non-accountable institutions such as the Chairman of the National Advisory Council. The Prime Minister holds office but is not in power. Nor is he perceived to be. The Prime Minister is not held in awe or admiration. He is an object of pity and sympathy. Never before has the office of the Prime Minister been so deliberately denigrated.
The dilution of Prime Ministerial authority has been compounded by the mushrooming of numerous power centres outside government. Alliance partners have also realized that the Prime Minister can easily be pushed around.
The Left Parties support the Government ostensibly from the outside. Yet they exercise a veto power that determines the ideological direction of the government. The contradictory and conflicting ideological directions of the ruling party and the Left have paralysed decision-making. The era of taking bold decisions is over. The India that once strode forward decisively is now crippled by this lack of consensus.
The Government is held to ransom by each of the constituent partners. The Left dictates the ideological agenda. The RJD succeeded in pressuring the government to subvert the Constitution and dissolve the Bihar Assembly. Some alliance partners have cornered key portfolios to swell their coffers and have also become non-accountable, even to the Prime Minister.
The UPA inherited one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. The year before the UPA came to power, India had seen an unprecedented 8.4 percent growth in GDP. Agricultural production was at a record high. The manufacturing and services sectors had stabilized at an 8+ percent growth rate. The challenge before the government was to ensure bold decisions --- to enhance productivity, efficiency and generate greater economic activity. Unfortunately for our country, the ideological contradictions between the Congress and the Left have ensured that economic decision-making is completely paralyzed. Leadership has to be decisive; it cannot callously adopt a do-nothing approach in the hope of a consensus. Today, all on-going economic reforms have been halted. The growth in the economy in the past two years has been entirely entrepreneur-driven, not policy-driven. Barring the decision to carry forward the decision of NDA Government to modernize two airports, not a single significant economic step forward has been taken by the government.
The economy has witnessed a complete slow down in infrastructure creation. The National Highway programme has slowed to a crawl as corruption has delayed award of tenders. The visionary rural roads programme envisaged by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee has been pushed off centre-stage. The rapid expansion of the sea ports has been halted, so crowded existing ports have slowed down trade movement. The power sector has not seen any increase in capacity and major power sector reforms have been abandoned. The Programme for interlinking rivers has been abandoned. Cement prices have soared meanwhile, threatening to slow down construction industry.
The rise in prices of primary products has caused much misery to the people of India. The BJP demands that the Index for measuring rise in prices should be recast to reflect the ground reality. At a time when global oil prices are rocketing the government has focussed instead on extracting higher tax collections, pushing oil companies into the red. Worse still, the Aam Admi has been burdened with the entire load of increased oil prices. The government has failed to reduce duties on petroleum products to give relief to the common man who is already reeling under the rise in prices of items of daily consumption. The UPA government, in the past two years, has also increased the tax burden. Taxes, which had been rationalized since liberalisation began in 1991, have started moving up again in the past two years. Mindless taxes have been imposed on the people and the areas of relief are negligible. The confidence in India’s capital markets has been shaken and investors at all levels are worried. The Government's move to permit FDI in retail is fraught with danger and BJP is opposed to it.
Today, India’s food security is jeopardy. For the first time in several years, India has been forced to import wheat, and that too at a price higher than it is procured from our own farmers. The Indian farmer has in fact been the worst hit by the UPA’s economic shenanigans. Farmer suicides are touching record levels as procurement prices for crops appear to be unremunerative and there are chances of an uneven monsoon. The Farm Income Insurance Scheme which would have given a sense of security to the farmers has been forgotten.
The UPA government stands exposed as a pathetic manager of India’s economy and the people are paying heavy price for keeping the indecisive yet reckless UPA in power.
The UPA Government has institutionalized corruption in the past two years. The nation has rightly been concerned about the criminalization of politics. The UPA, however, succeeded in criminalizing the Council of Ministers. Never before have so many of its members been tainted by serious criminal accusations. They found in their powerless Prime Minister a defender of the taint. He flagrantly set aside all norms of probity in public life to declare that his Ministers must be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Emboldened by these tainted ministers, the UPA has decided to brazen out every allegation of corruption. The Volker revelations have established that even when out of power, the Congress Party and its leaders managed to convert diplomacy into commerce. Both the Congress Party and Shri K. Natwar Singh, were beneficiaries of the Iraqi oil coupons which were freely tradable for profit. The Prime Minister was the first to give a clean chit to Shri K. Natwar Singh. He has now become a veteran of giving clean chits to the tainted.
Further revelations in the media about the Volcker disclosures have conclusively proved that the Congress Party generates one of the most dishonest political cultures of our times. The UPA Government subverted the CBI and other institutions to put a lid on the sensational cases of corruption relating to Capt. Satish Sharma, Shibu Soren and the infamous Bofors case. The UPA Government was brazen enough to even force the CBI to write to the Crown Prosecution Services that the monies seized and frozen in British bank accounts should be returned to Mr. Quattrocchi, a close friend of Gandhi family. The Scorpene submarine deal also reeks of corruption. Names of people close to power have been mentioned in the media, bolstered by a significant amount of evidence. In Congress-ruled states such as Punjab, land and liquor have become the two most significant instruments of revenue collection by the Congress Party.
The UPA Government has remained loyal to the Congress tradition of destroying institutions. Governors appointed by the earlier government were changed, and several removals and appointments were made on partisan considerations Politicisation of the institution of governor was inevitable. Governors in several states such as Jharkhand, Bihar and Goa became political instruments in the hands of the Congress Party to subvert the Constitution. The unconstitutional dissolution of the Bihar Assembly was struck down by the Supreme Court. It was clearly aimed at preventing the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government in Bihar from taking office. The independence of the Election Commission has been a source of irritation for the UPA and its Left allies. Both in Bihar and West Bengal, the UPA attacked the fairness and independence of the very same Election Commission that had earned the admiration of the common people. The UPA has therefore prepared a strategy to wreck the independence and autonomy of the Election Commission from within.
A highly partisan former civil servant, Shri Navin Chawla, has been appointed as a member of the Election Commission. His partisan activities included taking MPLAD donations from Congress MPs to run his political trust. Nearly 205 members of Parliament approached the President of India and have sought the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner on whether Shri Navin Chawla should be removed. The Prime Minister has blocked the constitutional process and prevented the CEC from giving his opinion on the matter.
Constitutional subversions are not new to the Congress Party. One of the prime objects of Article 102 of the Constitution has been to uphold the independence of MPs so that the Executive could be accountable to them. The legislators cannot profiteer from the Executive. This conflict of interest compromises their independence. The UPA decided to violate this salutary constitutional provision. It has now legislated to legitimise un-constitutionality and protect those who have chosen to violate the Constitution. Almost 40 MPs are sought to be protected from disqualification even though their seats should have been declared vacant for having occupied offices of profit. The recent precedent set up the ruling combination in admonishing an important citizen who was critical of a Speaker's ruling constitutes a serious threat to free expression.
The management of the national security has cast serious doubt on the commitment and approach of the UPA government. In its bid to pursue vote-bank-politics, the government has deliberately chosen to be soft on terror. Repeated signals emanating from government’s actions have shown the people of India that terrorism cannot be fought with velvet gloves. POTA, the anti-terrorism law, is based on a global model that was adopted by most liberal democracies threatened with terrorism. The UPA government repealed the law in favour of a softer regime for terrorists including easier bail provisions.
Its policy on Kashmir has drawn a complete blank. The Prime Minister celebrated two years in office by convening a round table conference of all groups in Srinagar. With the exception of some Congress-friendly outfits, most people decided that no useful purpose would be served by even attending the conference. The BJP did not attend because it doubts the government’s intentions to fight terrorism. Terrorism in the Doda District has raised its ugly head again. Hindus in the district are being systematically targeted. Many have lost their lives and the government continues to watch inertly, devoid of any strategy and thinking. Terrorists are striking at will in the Kashmir Valley. Groups in the Valley and several organizations from Jammu and Ladakh have expressed doubts in view of the government’s loss of credibility in taking forward any serious Kashmir negotiations.
The rapid spread of Maoism has become the most significant menace in the last two years. Today there is a Maoist corridor cutting across India from the Nepal border till Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu. Armed insurgencies are being planned and in some states, Maoist groups have often dared to temporarily take over towns. Yet, in the 2004 General Elections, the Congress Party entered into political arrangements with several Maoist groups. As a result, post-elections they adopted a soft approach to Maoist activity in Andhra Pradesh. These serious threats to national security stare Dr Manmohan Singh in the face, but his government appears to have not evolved any cogent plan on how to tackle it.
As part of its policy to pursue minority-ism even if it threatens national security, the UPA government continues to pursue a mindless policy of giving a fillip to the demographic invasion of India from Bangladesh. As infiltration goes unchecked, the worst illustration of politics overtaking national security has been Assam. All over the world, a foreigner has to prove his citizenship if it is questioned by a foreign state. The onus of proof is on the foreigner. The Supreme Court quashed the IMDT Act, on the grounds that it was friendly to infiltrators and amounted to 'external aggression'. The UPA government immediately promulgated an order which shifted the responsibility to government tribunals to prove that a foreigner is not an Indian. Religion-based reservations are completely against the spirit of the Constitution and yet Congress governments in states let this rampant violation continue. The most glaring cases of minority-ism, however, were the head-count in the Armed Forces based on religion and the setting up of the Justice Banerjee Committee by the Railway Ministry to help those accused of burning a compartment of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra. The Armed Forces have always risen above divisiveness and have striven to maintain exemplary discipline. The UPA government decided to create rifts in this respected institution by conducting a religion-based census of the military. This had to be abandoned in wake of hostile public opinion. The accused in the Godhra case have already been denied bail repeatedly by the courts and voluminous evidence has piled up against them. Yet the UPA government decided to set up a Railway Inquiry contrary to the provisions of law. And it selected a judge to head it without even consulting the Chief Justice of India. A self-serving report was prepared, with the intention of helping the accused. It sent a signal to religious fundamentalists that the UPA would stand by them even if they commit such heinous crimes as burning a train.
The performance of the Ministry of Human Resources Development and the Minister has been most disappointing. The NDA incubated the Knowledge Economy but since then every effort has been made to fritter away India’s dominance in this new dynamic. For two years, no step has been taken, no intention has been expressed on how to expand the pursuit of excellence in Indian education. The agenda of the Human Resources Development Ministry has been unabashedly political. From the selection of personnel to the formulation of syllabi, the intention has been to foster vote bank politics.
The manner in which the reservation issue has been handled by the UPA government, leaves no one in doubt that its object is not social justice but to create social tensions. The Bharatiya Janata Party had supported the Constitution amendment to provide reservations in higher educational institutions. However, while doing so, any attempt at divisiveness must be avoided. Social fabric of the society must not be damaged. Consensus building is a must for such initiatives. The UPA government has failed on that score. Firstly, the government must ensure that while implementing reservations, the space for merit is not squeezed and excellence of institutions is not compromised. Secondly, efforts must be taken to ensure that the benefits of reservation must reach the most deprived amongst the socially deprived sections. Thirdly, the Government must ensure that the economically weaker sections of the upper caste are included in the benefits of the reservation. A committee of experts must be setup to examine that these three obligations are subserved. The BJP is opposed to the exclusion of minority institutions from the obligation of reservation. There must be no reservation on religious basis. The BJP notes with concern that the committee appointed by the NDA Government to examine the feasibility of providing reservation to the economically weaker sections has been abolished by the Central Government.
The UPA has let down Telengana on the promise of creation of a separate state and the people are getting increasingly restless with the betrayal. The BJP has always supported the urge of people to have a separate Telangana State.
During the last two years management of India’s international relations by the UPA Government has been charcaterised by an abandoning of the autonomous functioning of our policy marked by inconsistencies and contradictory pulls, pressures and the demands of an ideologically disparate and fractious coalition. In the past two years on account of gross misconception and mismanagement of policy our national interests have suffered. The global acknowledgement of the dynamism and enterprise of the Indian people is sadly therefore, not translated into a corresponding respect for Indian diplomacy. Indeed, ill-considered and shortsighted approaches to issues have led to the dissipation of many of the gains achieved under the NDA Government.
Within months of coming to power, the UPA Government diluted the Islamabad declaration of January 2004 providing President Pervez Musharraf a plank to abandon the committed obligation of ending cross border terrorism. This de-linking of the peace process from terrorism is a grave and telling error, its damaging consequences forcing India to pay with the lives of both civilians and security forces. Because of the UPA’s soft peddling of issues Bangladesh has emerged as a new hub of Islamic terrorism. It s porous border with India an easy route for terrorists as does its harbouring of them, and also of a continuous promoting of illegal immigration.
The UPA Government has soft peddled the issue of terrorism with both Pakistan and Bangladesh. It has sent out dangerous signals of willingness to negotiate the demilitralisation of Siachen. The BJP whilst resolutely opposing any moves that compromise our national security demands of the UPA to explain to the country what its policy on Siachen, on illegal immigration and on cross border terrorism is.
The BJP notes with grave concern the threat to the security of India from the Maoist movement in Nepal. This is greatly enhanced by the seeming unconcern of the UPA Government. It appears as if the UPA government, confused and immobilised is also completely unmindful of developments in that neighbouring country. Worse it appears as if the Government has subcontracted its Nepal policy to the CPI (M). The BJP demands a clear policy Statement in this regard from the government.
In its relations with the United States, the UPA Government has again put India’s strategic interests on the negotiating table. The Indo – US agreement on peaceful uses of nuclear energy has been quietly enlarged to such an extent that the future of our credible minimum deterrent is now under threat. The BJP as the originator of this policy believes that India and the US must have the healthiest of relations and pursue a joint fight against international terrorism, but is a relationship of equals. India’s right to pursue its own strategic interests, including energy security, can be mortgaged to the strategic imperatives of the US.
During its tenure, the NDA Government’s foreign policy was guided solely by national interest. In the past two years, the UPA has allowed collateral considerations, including ideological posturing and vote bank politics, to influence decisions. The BJP will be unceasing in its efforts to ensure that national interests remain the only criterion of our foreign policy.