M A I N   N E W S

None will be spared: Sonia
Oil-for-food scam in Iraq
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 15
Chairperson and Congress President Sonia Gandhi today made it clear that action will be taken against anyone, including former External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh, if found guilty of misusing the party's name in the United Nation's oil-for-food scam in Iraq.

Supporting the government's move to institute a judicial inquiry into the Paul Volcker Committee report, Ms Gandhi was candid in admitting that "it hurt me and made me angry. If someone has misused the name of the Congress for his own benefit, action will be taken if he or she has been indulging in such actions. I can say we can no longer look the other way if such things take place," the UPA Chairperson stressed during a question answer session at the Leadership Summit organised by Hindustan Times here.

Acknowledging that she shared a "close working relationship with Mr Natwar Singh," Ms Gandhi stressed she would not shield anyone of wrong doing. "From the very beginning I have been saying if the Volcker documents are found correct, I will certainly not protect those who have misused the party's name."

The report had named Mr Natwar Singh and the Congress party as non-contractual beneficiaries in the oil-for-food scandal in Iraq. Mr Natwar Singh, who has been crying hoarse about his innocence, is currently a minister without portfolio in the UPA government.

She described as "correct" Mr Natwar Singh being stripped of the ministry as he would have been dealing with the collection of material on the basis of which the Volcker Committee reached its findings. In this context, she regretted that there was some amount of cynicism about politics and politicians among the people.

Only quick actions like ordering a probe on the Volcker findings will help change the peoples' perception.

Ms Gandhi concurred with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that there was no going back on the economic reforms. She was categoric that the present momentum will be maintained. "You may be rest assured that the government would implement the economic reforms set out in the national common minimum programme (NCMP).

On the coalition arrangement of 14 parties, she agreed that there were difficulties and differences of opinion. At the same time, she had no doubt that these can be resolved through discussions.

Replying to a question, Ms Gandhi said civil society would be involved more and more to ensure that the benefits of reforms percolated down to all sections of the society particularly the poor and the disadvantaged.

About the National Advisory Council headed by her, she said the recently enacted Right to Information Act and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme were the result of its efforts.

She agreed that much more needs to be done and that such initiatives had also to be taken at the state level as well.

She dismissed suggestions that the outcome of the Bihar Assembly elections would have an impact on the Manmohan Singh government at the Centre.

"I do not think that if the worst were to happen, it would have a terrible impact on the coalition." She pointed attention to the fact that when the NDA came to power in 1999, it lost Assembly elections in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and nothing happened to that coalition. "So, I am banking on that experience."

Ms Gandhi accused the media of exaggerating the differences between the UPA government and the Left which is extending support from outside. She was confident that as and when problems arose, these would be sorted out as evidenced in the past. "We have devised an arrangement and we are meeting regularly," she added.



Sonia has no regrets in giving up PM’s post
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 15
Congress President Sonia Gandhi maintained that she had no regrets in giving up the high office of Prime Minister last year despite getting the mandate for her party along with the allies of the UPA.

“Yes, 100 per cent it was the right decision. I have no regret whatsoever,” she stressed at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here today.

Ms Gandhi asked her senior colleague Manmohan Singh to become the country’s chief executive after the general elections last year. This despite the fact that she had the backing of the allies of the Congress.

Fielding questions with great ease and equanimity, she noted she was unable to undertake many foreign trips as there was always the pressing need for her to be available in the country.

“In politics in India, one is required to be always available,” she observed. She would love to visit Japan, which she had visited twice — once with her late mother-in-law Indira Gandhi when she was the Prime Minister and later with her late husband Rajiv Gandhi in the mid 1980s. She would certainly like to visit Japan again as she admired its people.


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