Congress president Sonia Gandhi Wednesday sought to stamp out the popular assumption that there are two power centres in the UPA and asserted that she had no differences with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Using the platform of the fourth anniversary celebrations of UPA-2,Sonia publicly acknowledged Singhs leadership of the government for the last nine years and stressed that we all stand by him.
There are no differences between the Prime Minister and me. There is collective leadership, Sonia said. Her remarks were seen as implying that Singh would complete his term and that there was no scope for leadership change at this juncture to make way for Rahul Gandhi,as speculated in some quarters.
Singh too acknowledged that there was never any difference of opinion with the Congress president,and on the contrary,she provided him with strength in steering the government.
Ms Gandhi has always been a constant source of inspiration. She has in fact helped me navigate the coalition. There has never been any differences in these last nine years, he said,adding that he never felt the need for any reassurance from her because he always had that assurance.
The two power centre hypothesis had come under focus after AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh expressed strong views against such an arrangement. The BJP was quick to grab it to attack the UPA to suggest that the political leadership and executive head were not on the same page on policy issues.
The Prime Minister is carrying out his responsibility with great dignity in the face of unrelenting hostility and abuse from the Opposition. We respect him and we all stand by him, Sonia said while addressing the select audience. The Congress and its partners have been working closely and unitedly all these years,she added.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi also echoed the sentiments,saying the divide is a creation of the opposition.
In his speech,Singh listed four key achievements of his government in the last nine years: improved performance of the economy,inclusive growth process,delivery of better governance and welfare schemes and improved relations with a changing world. The central message is that the UPA government is working to realise your dream of an economically resurgent and socially just India, he said.
Looking relaxed and comfortable,Singh later also answered questions,even quoting an Urdu couplet when asked how he felt now that UPA-2 had completed four years.
Sitaron se aage jahan aur bhi hain (there are many worlds beyond the stars),he said,quoting Urdu poet Allama Iqbal. This was interpreted as an indication that there is important,unfinished business.
On the issue of the food security and land acquisition bills,Singh virtually ruled out the option of an ordinance,saying that his government would try to bring them through acts of Parliament.
We have not applied our mind to it, he said when pressed further if an ordinance would be passed by the Cabinet or a special session of Parliament would be convened.
Sonia too appeared to suggest the same when she made one more appeal to the opposition to back the legislations saying they were non partisan issues affecting the lives of the poor. She held the opposition responsible for the disruptions in Parliament and said their obstructionist approach came in the way of passage of crucial legislations.
Although she did not refer directly to the recent controversies that resulted in the exit of two senior ministers from the government,Sonia cautioned the party and government to be alert.
We need to be aware that there has been a calculated effort in some quarters to deliberately falsify and create innuendos to spread misinformation and untruths, she said.
The SP and BSP were conspicuous by their absence from the event where the UPA released its report card. SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had joined the UPA leadership on stage last year. However,BSP leaders Satish Mishra and Brajesh Pathak joined Sonia at the dinner table.
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