|Sonia and DMK’s sole representative TR Baalu at the dinner on Sunday. (Ramakant Kushwaha)
New Delhi, May 22: Mamata Banerjees truly historic victory on its lips, the UPA leadership acknowledged tonight that the concerns of people over corruption in public life were legitimate and that the Assembly election outcome had sent out the message that voters wanted good governance.
The mood at the celebrations of the second anniversary of UPA-II — though the event was pitched as seven years of the UPA, which included the first five years that are being seen as far better than the ongoing season — belied the despondency on display till last month.
The limited success in the Assembly elections and an assessment that the unparalleled flow of VIPs to jails may eventually help improve the governments image appear to have had some salutary effect. The BJPs perceived failure to cash in on the season of scandals — a STAR News-Nielsen survey has shown the Opposition party trailing the Congress in popularity ratings —also seemed to have lifted the morale of the UPA.
Every time the historic verdict in Bengal was mentioned by Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, the audience of cabinet ministers, Congress office-bearers and MPs of the UPA that had gathered on the lawns of the Prime Ministers residence this evening applauded.
Had Mamata, who was in Calcutta working out of home, been there, she would have occupied the third most important seat on the dais from where the UPA released its annual Report to the People.
The place went to T.R. Baalu, the DMKs lone representative who looked skywards whenever Manmohan and Sonia mentioned or alluded to corruption, which was many times. Mamata was represented by MP Sudip Bandopadhyay, who got to share the high table with the Prime Minister.
Sonia congratulated Mamata again for her truly historic victory in Bengal and suffixed the Congresss victors, Oommen Chandy and Tarun Gogoi, only after her name.
Every alliance leader showed up, including the NCPs Sharad Pawar who was supposedly smarting at the Maharashtra governments alleged move to get at his nephew Ajit Pawar in a co-operative bank muck-up.
If Manmohan and Sonia alluded to corruption in their addresses, they also reaffirmed their belief in the ability of democracy to lift people out of cynicism.
The message from the (Assembly election) results was specific to each state. But a common thread ran through them. It was that people wanted and respected good governance, Sonia said.
Stressing that we will take the issue of corruption head-on and demonstrate through action and not words that we mean what we say, Sonia took a potshot at the BJP without naming it for not showing the same high standards of probity when it comes to their own.
Transparency, accountability and probity are at the heart of governance, the UPA chairperson said.
The Prime Minister accepted as legitimate the concerns of people over corruption in public life.
We will punish those that are guilty through the due process of law. We will also take steps to prevent such developments in future, he said.