| Fernandes arrives at the Prime Minister’s residence on Saturday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Aug. 16: When Sonia Gandhi begins her attack in Parliament on Monday, defence and national security matters will obviously take pride of place. After all, she tabled the no-trust motion because the government refused a debate on defence purchases during the Kargil conflict.
But the Congress chief has armed up to use the nationwide focus on the Lok Sabha debate to launch a more comprehensive offensive against the Vajpayee government.
In a bid to seize the political initiative from the BJP, Sonia will train the glare on the NDA’s record on internal security, probity, agricultural and economic growth and foreign policy. The Kargil coffin scam will be just one of the scams. There will be Tehelka, petrol pump, Delhi Development Authority, UTI and several other scams that she will cite to “expose” the government.
The seven areas Sonia identified at last month’s Shimla conclave to build a campaign against the BJP and its allies ahead of the Assembly and general elections will be highlighted in her speech introducing the no-trust motion.
The Congress leadership is convinced the opportunity to expose the government should be exploited fully as there is no realistic chance of the motion being adopted by vote. “We will be aiming for a political and moral victory,” a leader said.
Sonia today discussed the strategy for the two-day debate with senior colleagues in the party political affairs committee. Those who attended the deliberations at her residence included Arjun Singh, Manmohan Singh, Shivraj Patil, Ambika Soni, Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Jaipal Reddy, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and Buta Singh.
Although the issues the Congress will take up and the speakers it will field against the government are obvious, the leadership is reluctant to talk about the strategy.
Congress leaders are in touch with Opposition parties, including the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Left parties, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Janata Dal (S) to coordinate debate strategy. Sonia will formally meet leaders of these parties on Monday morning, Reddy said after today’s meeting.
The leaders are also believed to have discussed the George Fernandes boycott issue as he is expected to intervene during the debate.
Reddy declined a categorical reply on whether Congress members will stay put or walk out when he speaks. A powerful section is against walking out as the Congress has moved the no-trust motion.
Sources said a decision on the House strategy for Fernandes’ speech will be taken after Sonia’s consultations with Opposition leaders on Monday morning. Some leaders feel that even if Congress members remain in the House during his intervention, nothing can prevent the party from continuing the boycott if it is not convinced with the government’s explanation on defence issues, including the Central Vigilance Commission report row.