Sonia attacks Modi, Congress CMs reject NDA's land bill

New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of "boastful claims, exaggerations, U-turns and downright falsehoods" at a meeting of party chief ministers which rejected the NDA government's land bill while also expressing reservations to changes in the GST bill.

The day-long meeting, the first since Congress lost the last Lok Sabha elections, saw nine party chief ministers expressing "grave concern at substantial cuts" on social sector spending in areas such as education, health, women and child development, drinking water and sanitation.

They accused the central government of doing away with special category status to 11 northeastern and hilly states of the country and demanded restoration of the status. Rejecting the Modi government's claims of greater devolution of funds to states, the chief ministers said that it was taking away with one hand what it was giving with the other.

They alleged Modi had violated spirit of cooperative federalism and had not been taking them on board on important decisions, while some chief ministers from the northeast also said that their requests for appointment with the prime minister were pending while discussions were only being held with officials.

The meeting, which was also addressed by former prime minister Manmohan Singh and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, passed a resolution which deplored "deliberate attempts being made by certain sections of ruling establishment to disturb social peace" and resolved to resist these attempts forcefully.

Recalling that the GST bill was first introduced by the UPA government, the resolution said that the bill of National Democratic Alliance government had several shortcomings. The resolution rejected amendments to land act of 2013 passed during UPA rule and demanded restoration of industrial promotion policy for northeast that was scrapped in 2014 and statutory status to schedule caste sub-plan and tribal sub-plan.

Sonia Gandhi, in her speech, accused the central government of "giving huge tax cut bonanzas to the corporate sector" while drastically cutting public expenditures for social sector programmes. Claiming there was unprecedented centralisation of power, "deliberate by-passing of parliamentary procedures and practices, threats to civil society and warnings to the judiciary, she accused Modi of breaking with tradition by taking "domestic politics to audiences abroad". "Boastful claims, exaggerations and downright falsehoods characterise most of his statements.

His election promises are now being dismissed, in the words of one of his own key colleagues, as 'chunavi jumlas' (poll idioms)." She also charged Modi with making U-turns from his earlier positions on a number of issues. Rahul Gandhi said that people should feel that nine Congress-ruled states are the best performing governments, and asked the chief ministers to focus on two-three transformational programmes and make them the best in the country.

Manmohan Singh said Congress should not be defensive about UPA governments which "achieved much and transformed India in many ways". He termed Modi as a "more adept salesman, event manager and communicator" than him. Talking to media persons after the meeting, senior party leader A.K. Antony termed one year of the Modi government a "disaster", with agriculture was in deep crisis and people were battling price rise.

"The prime minister is not finding time to visit states where farmers are suffering," he said. Former union minister Jairam Ramesh said the party-ruled states will not allow any reduction in social spending and will ensure successful implementation of the UPA's flagship programmes. He said Sonia Gandhi had asked the chief ministers to collectively meet Modi with their problems.

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