Growing rift between government and the Party
Those who know Manmohan Singh also know that whatever he says does not matter but what he does not, matters a lot. Sounds ambiguous! Interestingly, a person who is well apprised of this fact is Congress President Sonia Gandhi. However, he never spoke anything against her.
The government and Sonia Gandhi led National Advisory Council (NAC) have been arguing over various issues since two years. Gradually, the NAC’s grouse over government areas such as clearance given to POSCO despite NAC’s objection to the fact that the project violated Forest Rights Act. On Aug 3, 2010 NAC member N.C Saxena had written letter to Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh outlining the violations. Anti- Posco protestors say that clearance was due to PMO pressure. After paying lip service to Sonia’s favourite policy club, the government cleared the project.
The reality is that many NAC recommendations have been ignored, rejected, diluted or, at best, partially implemented. Another example is Sonia’s favourite Women’s Reservation Bill, which is still in a limbo despite her repeated entreaties to the Government to get it passed. The Government claims that it lacks the numbers in the Lok Sabha.
However, no attempt is being made to broker a consensus as was done in the case of Manmohan’s pet project, the Nuclear Liability Bill. This must hurt, given the support that Sonia lent Manmohan when it came to getting the nuclear deal through Parliament. She has also hushed criticism amongst some of Manmohan’s Cabinet colleagues over his single-minded pursuit of peace with Pakistan which resulted in the Sharm el-Sheikh fiasco and silenced criticism of the prime minister’s American agenda even though the Congress party’s traditional loyalties have been with the Far East and the Arab world. The history of Indo-Arab friendship benefits the Congress, but it s not on the prime minister’s agenda.
Manmohan does not refuse Sonia on larger issues, such as Cabinet appointments. But there are areas where he does say no, the fineprint of legislation being one of them. Most times, Sonia’s suggestions are taken but not implemented fully. The NAC has cried pointing out the lacunae in the Domestic Violence Act, the Right to Information Act and even the MNREGA.The Congress had weaved a winning election campaign around MNREGA. But there are complaints that it’s not being implemented properly largely because of lacunae in the legislation.
The latest bone of contention is the Land Acquisition Bill. On May 25, after a seven-hour meeting, the NAC suggested changes in its draft, the most controversial being that land should be acquired directly by private companies if the project displaces more than 400 households. This, government sources say, will be hard for Manmohan to concede. A key UPA ally, the Trinamool Congress, has objected to the 2007 Bill drafted by UPA-I which said that the state government should acquire 30 per cent of the land if the private player has acquired 70 per cent.