With presidential elections due soon and alliance parties frequently giving sleepless nights over policy issues, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) headed by the grand old Congress party is facing its worst time ever.
Minister of State in the Prime Minister`s Office, V Narayanasamy spoke to Zeenews.com’s Swati Chaturvedi and gave a detailed picture of Congress’ shortcomings in Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls. He also cleared the air on the controversy involving the government and the Army Chief.
Swati: You are regarded as mini Pranab Mukherjee these days. How do you manage the crises which the UPA is facing these days?
Narayanasamy: It is not correct. I am working as a Minister of State at the Prime Minister’s Office. My duty is to complete whatever job is assigned to me by the PM or UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Regional parties and national parties have different set of agendas and it is very difficult to bring them together and work. We are running a coalition government and running it by keeping them together.
Swati: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is apprehensive about issues like FDI, NCTC, petrol hike, Rail Budget. Why is that whenever she says something UPA gets into trouble?
Narayanasamy: We take a decision but when it comes to implementation, we don’t have the numbers. But there is always an overall consensus on policies like the Right to Education, the Right to Information, Food Bill etc. So there are no differences in the basic philosophy.
Swati: The Prime Minister is considered as a very honest person but is heading one of the most corrupt governments. Decision making has become difficult… your views.
Narayanasamy: Corruption is there in some places. Our government has taken action against the tainted ministers and the Prime Minister has even removed such ministers from the Cabinet…but in the BJP corruption is rising.
Swati: Defence Minister AK Antony is considered as the most honest Cabinet minister. So, do you justify what happened with the Army Chief and the Indian Army under his tenure?
Narayanasamy: Army Chief General VK Singh had some issues regarding his age and he went to the Supreme Court where the matter was settled. After this he raised the issue of defence preparedness and said our armed forces are not well equipped. I would like to ask who is supposed to buy weapons – it is the duty of the General and not the government. Who should write on the need for weapons? It is for him to write.
And why is he raising the issue now. Some Parliamentarians were demanding action against the Army Chief but the Prime Minister intervened and said it is not about VK Singh but the designation which he holds and it should be respected, thus action was not taken. After that the Army Chief came out with a statement that everything is well between him and Antony and some vested interests were trying to create problems.
Swati: What do you think Rahul Gandhi will do for the Congress in future?
Narayanasamy: I am proud of Rahul Gandhi as he toured Uttar Pradesh and went to many villages to strengthen the Congress party. We managed to increase our tally by five percent in the recent state elections, but I agree that we were not able to get the numbers. At the ground level the organisation is very weak and this is the reason why we didn’t do well. It is a lesson for Rahul Gandhi.
Swati: If you had projected Rahul Gandhi as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, do you think the poll results would have been different?
Narayanasamy: Rahul Gandhi is not for chief minister’s post; he is our national leader. I agree that not projecting anyone as the probable chief minister was our weak point.
Swati: There are only two leaders - Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. The Congress president is not well and Rahul is not able to meet the expectations. Don’t you think there is a vacuum in the party?
Narayanasamy: This is totally wrong…there are vacancies in other parties. Vacuum is there in the BJP.
Swati: What is your government’s strategy for the presidential polls. Who is your candidate and how will you make sure that particular candidate wins?
Narayanasamy: It is a difficult task and we will have to do fire fighting for this. We will talk to our alliance partners and then the candidate will be decided. Soniaji will take a final call on the candidate for president’s post.
Swati: What role will Pranab Mukherjee play in all this. Will he be the candidate or will he help in making the candidate win?
Narayanasamy: This is not the right time to discuss this.
Swati: Is there any truth in reports that the Congress will pitch for Mulayam Singh as the vice president to garner Samajwadi Party’s support?
Narayanasamy: We have not discussed this. Such talks are only in the media.
Swati: What’s your take on Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s recent visit to India?
Narayanasamy: Our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari had a good meeting. Terrorism is the biggest issue between the two countries and the Prime Minister told Zardari clearly that talks can only happen when Pakistan stops terrorism. Pakistan is trying to contain terrorism and one has to give it time for that.
Zardrai’s son Bilawal, who was accompanying his father on India tour, said that both Pakistan and India are spending so much on defence and it is good that a young leader is thinking of wiping off terrorism.
Adaptation: Biplob Ghosal