New Delhi, July 7: On her left sat the Prime Minister. On her right, the man in charge of defence. But neither spoke.
As chairperson of the Congress parliamentary party, Sonia Gandhi did all the talking at the first CPP general body meeting after the formation of the government.
It is the CPP leader who has addressed parliamentary party meetings so far. But Manmohan Singh, who was elevated to the post on May 19 to pave the way for his appointment as Prime Minister, did not speak.
The parliamentary party constitution was amended to create the post of chairperson, more powerful than the CPP leader.
Defence minister Pranab Mukherjee earned the right to occupy the other flank in his capacity as leader of the party in the Lok Sabha as Singh is not a member of the House.
Asked if the seating arrangement would be a standard practice for future CPP meetings, party spokesman Anand Sharma replied in the affirmative.
Among the others who attended the meeting in Parliament’s Central Hall were home minister Shivraj Patil and HRD minister Arjun Singh.
Besides being the only speaker, what Sonia said in the course of her brief speech showed that she calls the shots. The Congress chief emphasised that the United Progressive Alliance’s coordination committee, which she heads, “provides the overall political leadership” to the implementation of the common minimum programme (CMP), while the “government itself provides the administrative momentum”.
She also said the National Advisory Committee, set up under her leadership to give a professional dimension to the CMP, would be “our interface with civil society”. “The council will work closely with the government to ensure that whatever we have pledged in the CMP becomes reality,” she said, adding that the common programme has promised new legislations which she expects the government to bring forward in the budget session.
Sonia gave a certificate of good governance to railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav, who more than once paid obeisance to Sonia while presenting his maiden budget yesterday. The budget was in line with “our aam aadmi (the common man) philosophy,” she said.
The BJP-led alliance was not the focus of her address. But Sonia did not miss the opportunity to accuse the Opposition of behaving irresponsibly by not allowing Parliament to function smoothly. “The desperation of our political opponents is not surprising, their frustration not unexpected. Blinded by arrogance of power, isolated from people, they did not expect to lose. They lost. More than that, they lost decisively. They and their cheerleaders are busy trying to subvert the overwhelming mandate of our people.”