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Sushma Swaraj's role has been diminished in Modi govt: Shakeel Ahmad

After accusing the Narendra Modi government of being "pro-corporate", Congress on Monday alleged that the role of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has been diminished.

Chandigarh: After accusing the Narendra Modi government of being "pro-corporate", Congress on Monday alleged that the role of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has been diminished.

"One gets to hear and read that Sushma Swaraj is the country's External Affairs Minister, but probably one does not get to actually see that she is the Foreign Minister. What is the work of an External Affairs Minister, it is to prepare all blueprint and go into details about the sensitive and other matters pertaining between two nations and try to work out their possible solutions," AICC General Secretary and party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmad said at a press conference here.

He further said, "Barring one odd foreign visit, Sushma Swaraj has never accompanied Prime Minister Modi on his foreign visits as External Affairs Minister. Who then is performing the duty of External Affairs Minister? One person who is present in every trip with PM is a prominent industrialist. According to me, for all practical purposes, he is the actual foreign minister of India."

On the issue of graft, Ahmad accused the BJP-led NDA government of doing nothing.

"Most of the charges related to corruption against the UPA government were based on the reports of the CAG, which has also said the industrialist's (group) got benefit to the tune of Rs 40,000 crore. This report was laid in Gujarat Assembly," he claimed.

The Congress leader also accused Modi of "defaming" the country by raising domestic issues abroad and making remarks on how people earlier used to think what sin they commited to have been born in India.

"No prime minister has defamed India outside the country like Modi did. From Jawahar Lal Nehru to Manmohan Singh, nothing of this sort has ever happened. In a democratic set up, there are differences but no prime minister has derided the country abroad," he alleged.

On Modi and BJP making promises of 'Achhe Din' to the people before last year's polls, Ahmad took a dig, saying "Achhe din may have come for people like the industrialist who get loan at the rate of 2 per cent and bank chairman accompanies him. For those who wear Rs 10 lakh suit, achhe din have come".

Charging the government with creating an atmosphere of "disappointment" among various sections of society, Ahmad said Modi had come to power in 2014 riding on the promises of good governance, ease of doing business, 10 per cent GDP growth among others.

He said a year ago Modi had spoken to economists and industry watchers about a new 'economic blueprint' for India but it turned out to be a ploy to grab headlines. The Modi government lacks economic vision, fiscal direction and financial astuteness to propel India on a growth trajectory, he added.

"Even senior BJP leader Arun Shourie has clearly adjudged the government as lacking financial direction," he said.

He claimed that growth in core industrial sectors - coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery, fertiliser, electricity and steel - is down to 3.5 per cent in 2014-15, lowest since 2009, while "Cement industry has seen zero growth in December quarter, engineering companies are seeing zero increase in scales and real estate sector is seeing negative growth. Index of Industrial Production grew in March at 2.1 per cent only".

"Even captains of industry are expressing serious concern. HDFC Bank Chairman Deepak Parikh recently said that 'nothing has changed on the ground' in terms of ease of doing business," Ahmad said.

Industry is also highlighting two new concerns, he pointed out.

"Firstly, tax terrorism in shape of backdated demands of taxes...A committee has now been constituted after considerable outrage by Foreign Institutional Investors. Secondly, unchecked and unbridled socially divisive agenda being practised by BJP supported right wing groups and lumpen elements. This is sending out a wrong signals to investors," he claimed.

The Congress leader also hit out at the Modi government on other issues, including the "fallacy of Make-in-India" reducing it to "just a slogan", the issue of farmers and the Land Bill, and the increase in rail freight and petro hikes.

"Despite their Make in India slogan, industrial growth has touched its lowest during past 20 months," he said.

Ahmad accused the Central government of embarking on a "false propaganda" and being in "election mode even after one year".

Targeting Modi, Ahmad said that "a country's PM should sometimes speak truth, otherwise people will lose faith and sanctity of the highest post will be lost."

Haryana Congress President Ashok Tanwar and Punjab Congress General Secretary Fatehjung Bajwa were present among others at the press conference.