New Delhi, Feb. 24: Leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi today launched a blistering attack on the National Democratic Alliance for its failure on security, its inability to combat terrorism effectively and “worse, using terrorism as a pretext to polarise society”.
The Congress president also charged the BJP-led coalition government with “seriously damaging the secular fabric of our society”.
“We are exposing ourselves to external and internal enemies by targeting large sections of our own innocent citizens,” Sonia said. “To be one of the world’s few nuclear powers can be of no solace when the hands that wield that power are busy trying to destroy our internal harmony and cohesion.”
Sonia accused the government of not converting the strengths of the economy into opportunities for the people, to enhance food security, employment, growth and investment. The track record of the ruling dispensation on probity, accountability and transparency has been abysmal, claimed the Congress chief.
“It served the purpose of the government to talk only about external threat and gloss over the equally grave internal threat that is rearing its head due to the BJP’s own divisive agenda,” Sonia said during a discussion in the Lok Sabha on the motion of thanks on the President’s address.
The Congress chief also criticised the government for “misusing” the anti-terror legislation against political opponents. Some members of the DMK, a key ally of the BJP, praised Sonia for her statement.
In sharp contrast, BJP chief whip Vijay Kumar Malhotra, who initiated the discussion, spoke at length on cow slaughter, Ayodhya and corruption involving Congress governments. This sparked frequent interruptions from Opposition members, who accused him of taking the debate to a “new low” in the House.
Malhotra hit out at the Opposition, especially the Congress, for its “spit-and-run” tactics to malign the government on several issues including corruption.
“Those living in glass houses do not throw stones on those living in steel houses,” he said.
The BJP leader said the Vajpayee government had withstood US pressures, be it on the Pokhran nuclear tests, the Kargil conflict, or talks with Pakistan. On Iraq, he hit out at the US for acting as a global policeman and wanted Washington to target Pakistan instead of Baghdad as Islamabad was promoting cross-border terrorism and sheltering Al-Qaida activists.
Malhotra was also critical of the Congress for indulging in false propaganda that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a beef-eater. He sought to know whether the Congress favoured a nationwide ban on cow slaughter, an issue raised by Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh.
Sonia countered Malhotra’s charges, accusing the VHP of trying to destroy the sacredness of the holy town of Ayodhya. She called for an early meeting of the National Integration Council, saying this has not been held for a long time.
“Ayodhya, I believe means a place where war is absent, where battles do not take place. Are not sectarian organisations like the VHP destroying the very meaning of this sacred place by their belligerent posturing and sabre-rattling'” she asked.
The Congress chief asserted that Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism must be combated vigorously but added that jingoism and war hysteria are not the real answers. “Confrontation with Pakistan must not be used to polarise society and damage communal harmony,” she said.
“I call for the codification of measures to be taken to prevent communal tensions and riots, as well as measures for relief and rehabilitation of riot-affected victims,” in view of what was witnessed in Gujarat, she said.
No regime in independent India has been more responsible for weakening the democratic, egalitarian and plural social and political order than the BJP-led coalition, alleged the Congress leader. She pointed out that the home minister had promised a white paper on the Inter-Services Intelligence more than three years ago but said “the nation is still waiting for it”.
More than 40 months have passed since the Subrahmanyam Committee gave its report, but the government has not briefed Parliament about the implementation of its recommendations, Sonia said. “Perhaps, the government is deeply embarrassed by what the committee found as to what exactly led to the Kargil war by way of intelligence failures,” she said.
Sonia expressed dismay that the President’s maiden address, a solemn and esteemed tradition, was reduced to “camouflage the failures of the BJP-led coalition and to reflect its deeply divisive approach to governance”.
Hitting out at the government for its “failure” on all fronts, veteran CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee said, “under this government, people have been pauperised and the great Indian unity has been trivialised. We have become land of scams and not only textbooks but also Raj Bhavans and culture have been saffronised”.
George Fernandes resigned as defence minister saying he would not come back till he is exonerated but is now back, he pointed out.