Taking head on Mrs Sonia Gandhi on the issue of corruption, the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, today asked the Congress President to clarify her and her party’s position in the multicrore Telgi scam and said the government had collected all facts, which would be placed before the next Parliament.
Addressing a massive rally at Paddal ground here, he said stamp papers were sold on the sly for years in the mega scam, involving about Rs 14,000 crore, and in Maharashtra a Chief Minister, a Deputy Chief Minister and several police officers had been shown the door. Many other officers were facing the music “Who were the influential people behind it?” he asked.
Mrs Gandhi must tell the people at large what happened and how it happened, and who was guilty. An inquiry was already under way into the scam and those involved in it would be brought to book.
Coming down heavily on Mrs Gandhi for making vague an unsubstantiated allegations against the NDA regime, the Prime Minister said there could not be different yardsticks for measuring corruption. It did not take much to level charges, but it was very difficult to prove these. As far as his government was concerned, inquiries had been ordered whenever cases of corruption were brought to its notice. The government was firm on taking action against those
indulging in graft. However, political parties should adopt uniform standards on such matters.
In a passing reference, he said a leader from Himachal Pradesh was also facing an inquiry and truth would come out soon.
Mr Vajpayee was his usual fluent self while taking on Mrs Gandhi. He also made it clear that he was totally against a personal attack, which not only lowered the level of political debate but also reflected poorly on the leaders who deployed such tactics.
Reiterating his resolve to provide a clean, effective and responsive government, Mr Vajpayee cautioned the electorate that a fractured mandate would not help in pursuing these goals and accelerating the pace of development. A stable government was essential for effective functioning. Hence, the need to exercise the franchise with utmost caution. People should ponder over whether the choice they are making would help install a stable and effective government at the Centre. Further, the BJP, the principal party in the NDA, must get a good number of seats for ensuring stability. The party had successfully led the alliance and achieved much in the spheres of development, economy and Indo-Pak relations, but without a clear majority decision-making was not easy. People must give a comfortable majority to the NDA, with the maximum number of seats to the BJP, to ensure a stable government in place. The Congress had a poor track record in this regard and was responsible for the collapse of the governments headed by Mr H.D. Deve Gowda and Mr I.K. Gujral.
While speaking at length on national and international issues, Mr Vajpayee did not forget to touch on local issues and the people. Striking an emotional chord, he said visiting the beautiful hill state had always been a pleasure. Since it was the last day of electioneering, he would not be able to go to Manali where he had a cottage. However, he would come again. He also spoke about the efforts made by his government to exploit the hydel power potential of the state and stressed the need for harnessing the tourism potential to create gainful employment for the local youth.
There was also great scope for growing fruits, vegetables and flowers. However, such perishable produce needed proper marketing facilities. He assured that the government would provide facilities for transportation by air so that the growers could export their produce and get good returns. The Prime Minister said funds given by the Centre were not being properly utilised by some states. Without naming the Himachal government, he said in certain states the funds were deposited in banks and the interest was used for paying salaries of employees.
He said roads were the lifeline of the economy but no Congress government ever thought of expanding the road network in the country on a priority. It was his government which launched a scheme to connect villages by roads in a time-bound manner. The Congress had been repeatedly accusing the NDA of not fulfilling the promise to provide one crore jobs even though the government had released a list of 88 lakh persons who were given employment.
Much headway had been made in improving relations with Pakistan and its President, Gen Pervez Musharraf, who was adamant on discussing the Jammu and Kashmir issue in isolation, had fallen in line. There was no shortage of food, foreign exchange reserves were swelling, the rate of economic growth was healthy, houses were being constructed on a large scale to provide shelter and new avenues of employment had been opened and the overall pace of development had been stepped up.
An ambitious project to interlink the rivers to meet the need of water for drinking and irrigation had been planned. The rail network was also to be extended and the government had set apart Rs 20,000 crore for the purpose. To give practical shape to these plans, the NDA must be returned to power with a comfortable majority, he said.
Mr Suresh Bhardwaj, state BJP chief, and Mr Maheshwar Singh, the party candidate from the Mandi seat, also addressed the rally.
Earlier, Mr Bhardwaj honoured Mr Vajpayee with a Himachali cap. Mr Suresh Chandel, the candidate from the Hamirpur seat, was also present on the dais.
Our Correspondent adds from Sundernagar: BJP workers, who went to attend Mr Vajpayee’s rally, had to walk for around 4 km to reach the venue, as their vehicles had to be parked at a far-off distance due to a heavy rush.
From Sundernagar and Nachan segments alone, about 200 vehicles carrying BJP workers had left for the rally venue.