Sonia asks Congress ministers, CMs to give up discretionary powers

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 21 2010, 04:00am hrs
Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday unveiled a four-point action plan to intensify the battle against corruption, advocating a new system of fast-tracking all cases of corruption involving public servants, full transparency in public procurement and contracts, open and competitive system of exploiting natural resources, and asking all party chief ministers and ministers at both the Centre and states to set an example by reviewing and relinquishing all discretionary powers, particularly in land allocation.

This came in her address at the opening day of the partys two-day plenary session, which is being held at Burari, on the outskirts of Delhi, at a time when the ruling dispensation is buffeted by charges of scams and corruption leading to the ouster of Union ministers and a chief minister.

The issue of corruption dominated the proceedings as the ruling party sought to take the battle to the Oppositions doorstep, challenging the BJP to take action against Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa and asking senior leader Sushma Swaraj to come clean on her relationship with the Reddy brothers from Bellary (mining overlords G Karunakar and Janardan Reddy).

Reiterating how the Congress took actions against ministers and a chief minister even when no charges were established, Sonia asked: How many other parties can make such a claim Can the BJP do so in regard to Karnataka, where corruption is rampant, or other states

In this context, I want to say something about our Prime Minister. He is the embodiment of sobriety, dignity and integrity. The BJPs personal attack on him is downright despicable... The party stands solidly with him, Sonia told about 15,000 AICC and PCC delegates gathered for the plenary session.

She also said it was time to think how best to take the proposal for state funding of elections forward.

Making a brief mention of this issue in his speech later, AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi said those involved in corruption should get stern punishment.

First, there is merit in instituting a new system of fast-tracking all cases that concern corruption by public servants, including politicians, including all of us. Such cases drag on interminably and undermine public confidence and trust. Why cant we put in place systems that bring corruption cases to closure in a defined timeframe said the Congress president.

We have ample evidence now before us that all discretionary powers, particularly in land allocation, breed corruption. I would like all Congress CMs and ministers at both the Centre and states to set an example by reviewing and relinquishing such powers, she said, adding that Congressmen holding office must not allow any doubt about their probity and integrity.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee gave a detailed explanation to party delegates as to why the UPA government did not concede to the Oppositions demand for a JPC probe into the 2G spectrum scam. He said even the JPC had no investigating powers and would serve no purpose given that so many other agencies and parliamentary committees were already examining it. About a year before the Opposition made the demand, the CBI had started the probe, he said.

Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh alleged the spectrum scam had its birth during the Pramod Mahajan days when the revenue sharing model was introduced. The Oppositions objective was to delay the investigation through JPC, said Singh. The Karnataka CM gave plots to both sons and daughter but the BJP dare not act against him. Sushma Swaraj has to clarify what relations she has with the Reddy brothers.

Referring to resignations by the partys ministers, the Congresss political resolution said that maintaining credibility with the people has remained an article of faith for it. By contrast, the BJP and its new-found allies have done exactly the opposite... after the shameful findings of the Kargil scam and taped revelations of murky defence purchases, putting national security at risk and bringing the country to shame, the BJP refused to act and in fact rehabilitated the then defence minister before even the completion of the inquiry, said the resolution. It also attacked the CPM and other parties for actively indulging in corruption in the states under their rule.