|L.K. Advani gestures while answering questions during the release of the booklet on the UPA’s “misgovernance” in New Delhi. (Above) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh smiles at a meeting with Project Tiger directors in Ranthambore. (AFP and PTI)
New Delhi, May 24: Manmohan Singh was dubbed a “puppet”, as someone who was “not the leader of his own party, who is not in command of his own government, who has to report to his boss” and a “weak Prime Minister” who remained a “silent spectator in every sordid episode” involving his government.
In its “report card” on one year of the UPA government, the thrust of the BJP-led Opposition was to prove India was governed by a “proxy dynastic rule” and the Prime Minister’s Office has been “denigrated and devaluated”.
The report, released to the press this morning, was titled “A year of Non-Performance and Misgovernance: National Democratic Alliance exposes UPA government’s record of unkept promises, infighting and vendetta”.
In his opening remarks, NDA convener George Fernandes said: “This is a government run by a particular khandaan. When there is one family at the helm of the rule, corruption will grow because the whole idea is to line this family’s nest and throw democratic principles to the wind.”
The “report card” was supposed to have been made public yesterday but Bihar upset the NDA’s plans. While its news conference on Monday was entirely on Bihar, even today the obsession with the Assembly dissolution and a second election showed in the leaders’ submissions.
Fernandes used his time to rubbish Bihar governor Buta Singh, who he called “jhoota (liar) Singh”, and defend his own position in the defence deals which the CBI is probing.
The document ' 28 pages in English and 36 in Hindi ' pilloried Sonia Gandhi’s rejection of the Prime Minister’s post and tried to show how she wielded the “real reins of power” as chairperson of the National Advisory Council (NAC).
“People have not forgotten the soap opera of 18 May, 2004, when Smt Gandhi declined to become the Prime Minister ' heeding her mysterious ‘inner voice’,” it said.
The report maintained that the “assault” on the institutions of democracy ' a leitmotif running through the “report card” ' began on that day when the “Great Renunciator” anointed Singh as the Prime Minister instead of allowing the Congress Parliamentary Party to elect its leader even as a “mere formality”.
The NDA’s articulation on the UPA policies and decisions was as rhetorical. The issues on which the “report card” was specific were the Centre’s “failure” to evolve a policy on Naxalism, dragging its feet on power reforms, “ineptness” in dealing with problems on the India-Bangladesh border and the “unprecedented flip-flop” on Nepal.
It said the “tyag murti” (epitome of sacrifice) mask fell off Sonia’s face when she created a “strange creature” called the UPA with herself as the chairperson.
“... the real purpose of the NAC is not to tender advice to the government; rather it is thinly disguised arrangement for someone who the world had been told had ‘sacrificed power’, to exercise enormous power in the UPA government,” it noted.
The examples cited in the “report card” of the Prime Minister’s “weakness” were:
The creation of a diarchy by which Sonia would look after the “politics” of the government as the NAC chairperson and Singh its “administration”. This system, it said, had no constitutional sanctity.
“The PM of India is not the CEO of India Inc, stripped of political powers that are exercised by some other person,” it noted.
The projection of the NAC chairperson in official ads and the omission of Singh. “No wonder the people of India recognise Manmohan Singh as the weakest PM our country has ever had. No wonder he remains largely invisible,” it said.
Singh’s “total failure” to rein in Laloo Prasad Yadav.
Asked if he agreed with Singh’s rating of 6/10 for the government, BJP chief L.K. Advani said: “He is a gentleman, a good person but he is a weak PM and not a successful one.”