NEW DELHI: Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram today rejected Prime Minister Narendra Modi's veiled charge that Sonia Gandhi was an "unconstitutional authority" and instead accused the BJP and the government of "running to" RSS with a "pernicious" hidden agenda.
He attacked Modi saying he runs an "over-centralised" government and it will not go too far if it continues like this. In a dig at him, he said Modi has transformed from Chief Minister of Gujarat to Chief Minister of India. Chidambaram, who held Finance and Home portfolios during the tenures of UPA government, dismissed criticism that Congress was adopting obstructionism in Parliament and said as Opposition its duty was to raise issues.
"They have not been able to point to a single instance, where Mrs. Sonia Gandhi took any government decision. She was the President of the party. As President of the party she is entitled to give the party's view. "Why do BJP leaders run to Jhandewalan and Nagpur? (RSS headquarters). You constantly hear four ministers meet at Jhandewalan, four ministers went to Nagpur," he told PTI in an interview. He was asked about the Prime Minister's suggestion that Sonia Gandhi was an "unconstitutional" authority exercising "real" power over the PMO during the UPA rule.
Explaining Sonia Gandhi's role during the UPA government, Chidambaram said that a party is entitled to give its view. Every decision of the UPA was taken either in the cabinet or cabinet committee. You can criticise the merit of the decision. But, how can one deny that the decision was taken by the cabinet or cabinet committee concerned?" he said. Reacting to BJP chief Amit Shah's statement that the party-led government lacked the mandate to address its core issues, the Congress leader said, "This Government and party in power are hiding their true colours.
"From time to time, statements like the one made by Amit Shah bring out their true colours. Their pernicious agenda is still there. They keep it hidden for a while, but sometimes it surfaces." Asked to rate the performance of the government and its praiseworthy achievements, Chidambaram said sarcastically that they have made a number of praiseworthy announcements. "They have made a number of praiseworthy announcements. 100 smart cities is a praiseworthy announcement, but beyond that what? I am giving an example, but announcements are many. I cannot think of any new policy, which has been broken into a new program or programmes, which they have implemented." "I am asking you what is the new policy that they have broken into new programmes, which they have implemented successfully."
To a question on how he saw the government going on, he said, "If they continue to be a over centralised Government, where the ministers have no authority and no autonomy. I am afraid they will not go too far." Taking a dig at the Prime Minister, he said that Modi has transformed "from Chief Minister of Gujarat to Chief Minister of India". "He (Modi) still functions like he is Chief Minister. He is not functioning like the Prime Minister. Every decision is taken by his office like he did it in Gujarat. You can do it in a state. You cannot do that in a country. I am not the only one who is saying it. Everybody seems to be saying the same thing." He said that it means that decision making will be affected and that new ideas will not come up.
Chidambaram said that the Prime Minister is "still in campaign mode". "They are talking. They have to deliver. Talk less and deliver more...there is no achievement. There are lot of announcements but still no achievement." Asked about Modi's comments that Congress has not been able to digest defeat, Chidambaram said that while Congress has accepted that it was defeated in the elections and is in Opposition, the BJP does not seem to be comfortable being in government. "We were defeated. We accept it. We are in Opposition. Why are you constantly fearing that you are in government. You are in government. You do not seem to be comfortable. BJP does not seem to be comfortable in government."
Accusing the government of copying UPA's schemes, the former minister referred to the renaming of the JNNURM scheme and said, "They have done it for other things also. National Skill Development Mission has now become Skill India. Financial inclusion, zero balance account has become Jan Dhan Yojana. DBTL for LPG has become Pahal. Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan has become Swachch Bharat. "Aam Admi Bima Yojna and Rashtriya Swasth Beema Yojana have also become another insurance plan. What is new about it? They will name JNNRUM after Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee. I have no complaint. All I can say is it reveals a petty mind. Who prevents them from naming a new major project after Atal Bihari Vajpayee? We will all be very happy, if they do that."
Asked about the charge that Congress was following obstructionism in Parliament, he denied it. Chidambaram referred to a statement of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who as Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, had said that obstructionism is a legitimate Parliamentary tactic. "We are not. Jaitley, in an address in London had said that obstructionism is a legitimate Parliamentary tactic. We are not obstructing it. They obstructed the Insurance Amendment law, we passed it. They obstructed the GST. We have said we will pass it but after Standing Committee studies it. Which law have we obstructed? "They have introduced the blackmoney law, We had certain reservations yet we passed it because if you do not pass it then they will say you are supporting people who are holding black money. We have passed it even though we had reservations," he said.
Asked to respond to Jaitley's comments that Congress leadership lacks legislative literacy, Chidambaram said with sarcasm, "If Smriti Irani can be the HRD Minister, all of us are illiterates." Congress had earlier made an issue of Irani's educational qualifications questioning her suitability to become HRD minister. He said that the Congress showed great courtesy to the BJP government by remaining relatively quite for the one year. "But as they completed one year we have to play the role of the opposition. That is what they are doing. We gave them what they call their honeymoon period. We gave them one year. At the end of one year we can't behave as if it is Day one. It's one year.
"That is the right thing to do for an Opposition," he said answering a question about the recent aggression against the government shown by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Claiming that Congress raises very very important issues, he said, "If this government does not address issues of growth, issues of job, issues of social justice, issues of border security, the Opposition will highlight them. If a government does not deliver, we will continue to oppose." Asked about Rahul Gandhi's suit boot ki sarkar barb on Modi government, the senior Congress leader said, "Suit boot ki sarkar is a political comment.
"We did not ask Mr Modi to wear a Rs 10 lakh suit but if he wore one...In a political comment he called it suit boot sarkar to say it is a pro-corporate sarkar." Chidambaram also attacked the government on its handling of India's relations with Pakistan and China. "This is one of the puzzling things about this. What they said before the election? What they said immediately after forming the government and what they are saying now. You just put them in three columns you find a contradiction.
"They criticised the welcome given to a Pakistani Prime Minister as biryani diplomacy. Do they want to talk to Pakistan Prime Minister or not want to talk to Pakistan Prime Minister. There is no clarity. "Our view was very clear. Yes there is a problem but we need to talk. There is a problem with China, Pakistan and Sri Lanka but we must talk," he said. Chidambaram also attacked Modi for criticising the previous dispensations at foreign shore. "There is nothing wrong with the Prime Minister going abroad. But everything is wrong when he goes abroad and rubbishes the previous governments. It is totally wrong. It is unbecoming of the Prime Minister. It is not befitting a Prime Minister to make such a reply," he said.