The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia gives full marks to Singh
- First annual progress report on May 22

New Delhi, May 11: The Manmohan Singh government’s progress report will be known only on May 22, the day it completes a year in office, but the Prime Minister himself received a glowing certificate from party leader Sonia Gandhi today.

“Let us congratulate the Prime Minister for his leadership, his dignified and effective leadership,” she said at the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting with Singh sitting next to her on the dais.

The Congress president also heads the United Progressive Alliance as chairperson.

Her ringing endorsement of the Prime Minister’s performance came amid sharp attacks over the past few weeks from the BJP on Singh, who is frequently described by the Opposition as a “weak leader”.

Sonia spiced up her support for Singh with a stinging attack on the BJP, describing its “self-imposed boycott” of Parliament as a tactic to shift attention from “its internal dissension and its total disarray to issues that have no consistent or substantive content”.

Otherwise, she asked, why should it not accept the Prime Minister’s offer to discuss any of the issues that agitated them'

Addressing the CPP’s end-session meeting attended by all senior ministers and party leaders, she revealed that the government would present the progress report on May 22.

The Congress Working Committee will meet on May 16 to decide the agenda and the UPA co-ordination committee will gather two days later to finalise the performance record.

She confirmed that the party’s chief ministers were under scrutiny, too. A review of their performance will be made at a chief ministers’ meeting.

Sonia said: “Not even our most bitter critic can accuse our Prime Minister of being arrogant, subjective or inconsiderate.”

Still, the National Democratic Alliance ignored Singh’s repeated pleas to end their boycott. “Worse, they tried to justify their actions by spreading canards against the Prime Minister himself, and that too in an extremely crude and offensive language,” Sonia said.

She was alluding to the NDA’s recent memorandum to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in which Singh was accused of trying to stall Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s meeting with former Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee.

Continuing with her attack on the NDA, Sonia said each of the charges the Congress had made while in the Opposition against the Vajpayee government was now being vindicated.

The latest report of the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) showed that the divestment of the government holding from two hotels in Mumbai was carried out in a “most non-transparent manner which caused substantial losses to the national exchequer”. She expressed confidence that the UPA government would take appropriate action.

She also referred to the CAG censure of the money spent by the previous government on the “India Shining” campaign before the 2004 Lok Sabha polls without parliamentary approval of the expenditure.

Sonia cited as vindication of “our position” the confirmation that the defence ministry under George Fernandes had provided hospitality to Justice S.N. Phukan who was probing charges against him.

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