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Warm hug & praise for PM

New Delhi, Jan. 17: An unusually strong defence of Manmohan Singh and a scornful dissection of Narendra Modi were two themes that dominated today’s AICC meeting, other than the projection of Rahul Gandhi’s leadership.

Sonia Gandhi set the tone for admiration of Manmohan’s leadership and the achievements of his government in her inaugural address. Later, the political resolution and speeches by almost every speaker indicated the determination to defend the UPA’s track record despite rivals’ negative propaganda.

The verdict from the party was that the UPA’s 10 years under Manmohan had produced more in terms of public welfare and legislative reforms than any other government.

It is almost unthinkable that the Congress would give such credit to anyone, perhaps more than it did to Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

This is, after all, the party that rubbed away the name of P.V. Narasimha Rao, the former Prime Minister widely seen as the original architect of liberalisation. Nobody took his name today.

But Manmohan, who has declared that he would not seek a third term, loomed large, his pictures adorning posters and hoardings at the venue alongside those of Sonia and Rahul.

Almost every single speaker lavished praise on the Prime Minister.

Rahul gave him a warm hug after his address in which he said the Congress was “privileged” to have his leadership and exhorted the audience to clap louder for Manmohan.

Sonia chose to make her point with a poser at the audience. “I ask you, has any other government done more in the past? Manmohan Singh provided leadership to the government with exceptional dignity and unwavering commitment despite odds and irresponsible conduct of the Opposition.”

Sonia acknowledged shortfalls when she said “at times I suspect there have been some deficiencies in fulfilling people’s expectations” but did not blame the Prime Minister. Instead, she pleaded for a “sympathetic view” of the lapses.

The political resolution formally put the sentiments on record: “Under Manmohan Singh’s guidance over a decade, India successfully weathered a major global economic crisis, enjoyed the fastest growth in history, made remarkable strides in fighting poverty and gained a new prestige in the world.”

Finance minister P. Chidambaram flagged the issue much like Sonia did, challenging “anyone in the Opposition to show better growth and development in a 10-year period” and reeling off economic data to back his claims.

The other theme was Modi. Speakers attacked him without caring to even mention the BJP. Ghulam Nabi Azad remarked that “Modi’s lies had a market till truth was not spoken”.

Chidambaram said BJP’s “Mission 272 was not a mission but greed, ambition, aggrandising power”.