The Telegraph
Sunday , December 16 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Not a leader’ barb at PM

New Delhi, Dec. 15: Sushma Swaraj today said Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister but not the leader of the country as she used industry chamber Ficci as a platform to target the Centre politically.

The Lok Sabha leader of the Opposition accused the government of creating an atmosphere of “cynicism” in the country and blamed Singh’s alleged lack of leadership qualities for the delays in decision-making.

She scoffed at the Prime Minister for citing coalition compulsions as the reason for the failure to fast-track decisions.

“We also ran a coalition government. The NDA had 24 constituents…. Manmohan Singh is the Prime Minister but he is neither the leader of his party nor the country,” Swaraj told Ficci’s annual general meeting.

She said the government had failed to create the right atmosphere for the economy and that it was wrong to blame the Opposition for this.

“It is not pessimism but an atmosphere of cynicism…. More than policy, the right environment is important but here scams are surfacing every day,” she said.

Swaraj added that the reason bills were not being passed was not the Opposition but the “internal differences” in the government.

Her attack came in reply to the Prime Minister’s speech. While inaugurating the meeting, Singh had said that those opposing reforms such as FDI in retail were “ignorant of global realities or are constrained by outdated ideologies”.

Swaraj reaffirmed her party’s opposition to FDI in retail and said the reform was dangerous for the country. She said the government’s argument — that the decision would boost local entrepreneurship since at least 30 per cent of the goods would be sourced from Indian small and medium industries — was an attempt to fool the country.

“The government has allowed 100 per cent FDI in small and medium-scale industries. FDI will come and set up small and medium-scale industries and supply to the foreign retail giants. It will kill local entrepreneurship,” she said.

Swaraj claimed the BJP was playing the role of a responsible Opposition but remained silent on whether her party would support Ficci’s demand for a uniform goods and services tax.

Ficci president R.V. Kanoria called for urgent introduction of the tax and said the ruling and Opposition parties should practise bipartisanship and support the proposal in the country’s interests. Swaraj did not touch on the subject.