|Among the visitors at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Friday, two groups stood out — a BJP delegation (top) that included LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj and sportspersons such as cricketer Virat Kohli (below) who turned up for a rehearsal of an awards ceremony. Pictures by Ramakant Kushwaha
New Delhi, Aug. 30: The BJP today requested the President to “advise” the government to call early elections and defended his record as finance minister, saying it wasn’t Pranab Mukherjee but Manmohan Singh who was to blame for the current economic crisis.
The twin moves came on a day the Prime Minister’s combative stand in the Rajya Sabha stunned the main Opposition party, prompting many leaders to warn that such bitterness could endanger the food and land bills next week.
“We are hurt and saddened by the Prime Minister’s attitude in the Rajya Sabha and have also mentioned this to the President,” L.K. Advani said after meeting the President.
Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, tweeted: “The rupee has lost its value. The Prime Minister has lost his grace.”
The main agenda of the pre-scheduled appointment with the President was to urge him to advise the government to hold early Lok Sabha elections to end the uncertainty from the current economic crisis.
“If the country is rid of the present government and people are given a fresh opportunity to elect a new government, it would be in the best interests of the country,” Advani said after the meeting.
The BJP leaders followed that up with a defence of Mukherjee’s earlier stint in the government. Finance minister P. Chidambaram, speaking in the Lok Sabha recently, had said the seeds of the present crisis were sown between 2009 and 2011 — an allusion to the period when Mukherjee was finance minister and had offered stimulus packages to cushion the blows from the global financial crisis.
“The PM takes no responsibility…. He is blaming the Opposition and former finance minister for the present crisis. But the fact remains that the stimulus packages were announced between December 2008 and January 2009 when Pranab Mukherjee had not taken over and the Prime Minister was in charge,” BJP spokesperson and deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, Ravi Shankar Prasad, said.
Advani said it was sad that Mukherjee was being blamed. Others said they were advocating his case as he couldn’t defend himself as President.
BJP sources, however, said they wanted to maintain a good rapport with the President as he could play a key role in case of a split verdict after next year’s polls.
Asked whether the President could advise the government to call early elections, Prasad said: “The President can… The government can accept or reject it.”
Asked why the Opposition had not moved a no-confidence motion, Prasad claimed the move would be “useless” as the government “manufactures majority”.
The government uses the CBI and other unfair means to prove majority, he said, alluding to earlier allegations that probe agencies are used to hound leaders and scare them into extending support.
“The Prime Minister’s statement was full of bitterness, pessimism and negativism… Such a bitter PM cannot generate hope,” Prasad said.
The BJP is likely to make an issue of Singh’s attack. It could do so when the food security and land acquisition bills, already passed by the Lok Sabha, are taken by the Rajya Sabha next week.
The BJP cannot afford to be seen openly opposing the two bills after having supported them in the Lok Sabha but could try to put up roadblocks by pressing amendments.
The government has a thin majority in the Upper House compared with the Lok Sabha but is confident of sailing through with support from the Janata Dal (U), the Samajwadi Party and the BSP.