Cong closes ranks behind PM; Sonia opens front against corruption

As Rahul Gandhi came out in defence of PM, Sonia appeared to sermonize her party when she spoke against "graft and greed".

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: As the Congress came out in defence of PM Manmohan Singh in the 2G spectrum scam, Sonia Gandhi appeared to sermonize her party on Friday when she spoke out against the "graft and greed", saying these are putting in danger the very basis of independent India.

While party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi and union minister Kapil Sibal, who was recently given additional charge of the communications and IT ministry, strongly defended the prime minister, party leader Rahul Gandhi also spoke out in his support.

"I don`t think he is in an embarrassing position at all," Gandhi told reporters outside parliament when asked to comment on the Supreme Court`s observation about the "silence" of Prime Minister`s Office on a plea to prosecute then telecom minister A. Raja over the 2G spectrum scam. Calling the opposition`s attack on him over the 2G spectrum scam as "politically motivated" and "born out of ill will".

Sibal said as far as the Prime Minister`s Office is concerned, the government was absolutely clear that "we have done no wrong".

Attacking former MP Subramanian Swamy, who moved a plea seeking sanction to initiate proceedings against Raja over improper allocation of 2G frequencies, Sibal said it would be sad for the country if sanction is expected merely on the basis of newspaper reports.

However, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi emphasised the need to address some paradoxes where businesses and economy were thriving but graft and greed were also on the rise.

Prosperity has increased, but so has social conflict. Intolerance of various kinds is growing. Graft and greed are on the rise," she said in her address to a select audience on the verdant lawns of Teen Murti House, that is now the Nehru Museum and had been the residence of the nation`s first prime minister.

Gandhi, who was speaking for the first time at a public function along with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh since the Supreme Court remarks on the spectrum allocation corruption scandal, lamented at the deterioration of values at every walk of life.

"The principles on which independent India was founded, for which a generation of great leaders fought and sacrificed their all, are in danger of being negated," she said at the event, coinciding with the 93rd birth anniversary of late prime minister Indira Gandhi, her mother-in-law.

"We are right to celebrate our high rate of economic growth. We must do all that we can to sustain it. However, let us not forget that growth is not an end in itself," she said.

Gandhi, accordingly, called for a coherent social democratic agenda based on rights and entitlements, and not charity.

"The Right to Information, The Right to Work, the Right to Education, and the proposed Right to Food Security, represent a landmark shift in our approach to issues of welfare and human development. A new architecture of social provisioning is being put in place (by the government)."

Gandhi said no social democracy was possible without a thriving and dynamic business sector generating wealth and hoped the swelling ranks of India`s wealthy will inspire others to follow their example.

"There is a new spirit of entrepreneurship, a new awakening of enterprise in India, it needs to be encouraged. But surely, it is in the interest of business to be a major partner in promoting social objectives and caring for the environment," she said.

"This is not a matter of choice. It is a known fact that unequal societies cannot achieve their full potential or even sustain a high level of growth indefinitely. In other words, islands of prosperity in a sea of deprivation can only give rise to storms of conflict and instability," she said.

Party leaders said the PMO has "done nothing to deserve the comments that the nation is hearing".

"If Swamy had gone to courts with nothing more than newspaper reports, court would have rubbished it. That`s why he chose to go to the PMO to get political mileage. With every newspaper report, his document swelled," the senior leader said.

He said it will be "a sad day for Indian democracy if the prime minister started giving sanction on the basis of newspaper reports".

"The PM is not obliged to write to a person who had not filed any case and who believes he is an investigating agency," Sibal said.

-Agencies inputs