The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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One year on, V-Day mood returns

New Delhi, May 18: Exactly a year after they teamed up, the Congress-led alliance and the Left today presented the picture of a happy family as they went over the performance of the Manmohan Singh government together.

For almost eight hours without a break, Singh and his ministers offered a review of their work against the backdrop of the promises made in the common minimum programme.

The Left leaders patiently heard them out, with no sign of the rancour of the last week when the CPM and the CPI had taken turns to smite the government for not doing enough for the poor.

Neither CPM general secretary Prakash Karat nor his CPI counterpart A.B. Bardhan raised any contentious issues. Karat only suggested that Gujarat riot cases be handed to the CBI and heard outside the state. Bardhan wondered if the government was getting its Nepal policy right.

The Prime Minister, who presented an overview of his government’s performance, also avoided any reference to such issues as labour reforms and divestment, the need for which he had emphasised just two days ago at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee.

“The atmosphere was friendly... there were no confrontational and discordant notes,” said Congress leader Ambika Soni, who attended the marathon meeting at the Prime Minister’s 7 Racecourse Road residence.

The unity befitted the occasion. On this day last year, after getting the better of the NDA in the general elections, the Congress, its poll allies and the Left had resolved to work together to form a secular government and firmed up what came to be known a week later as the United Progressive Alliance.

As if to recall the basis of their coming together, the UPA partners and the Left parties adopted a joint statement at the end of today’s meeting that “reaffirmed their resolve to confront and combat communal forces and strengthen pillars of the Indian state”.

To celebrate this spirit of unity, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi hosted a dinner for the leaders at her 10 Janpath residence, where they had met over dinner on this day last year too.

Sonia opened the review meeting, which centred around a draft status paper on implementation of the common minimum programme that was circulated among the leaders in advance. The draft was finalised for presentation as the government’s report card on its completion of one year in office on May 22.

The Prime Minister’s overview touched upon almost all subjects ' agriculture, health, education, economic reforms, internal security and foreign policy.

He focused on the Bharat Nirman programme, projected to involve an investment of Rs 1,74,000 crore that will address all aspects of rural economy, including employment generation.

A dozen ministers then presented their report cards, one by one without a break and over a working lunch. “They ate while they heard out the others,” said a leader.

The Prime Minister assured the Left that the government will work out a future road map keeping their concerns in view.

Although the Left voiced no complaints today, it has stuck to its decision not to attend the anniversary celebrations on Sunday because it wants to maintain a distance from the ruling coalition.

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