The release of The Accidental Prime Minister set to open the fresh debate over the Sonia Gandhi and her NAC during the UPA Government
Narendra Modi Government decision to release the 710 files of Sonia Gandhi headed an extra constitutional authority was certainly a bombshell. Such was the Left oriented intellectuals and Urban Naxals were ruling roost. The book by Sanjay Baru further provided insights into the functioning of the UPA. The controversy surrounding the film based on the same book by Baru, The Accidental Prime Minister, further open up the issue. The underlining part has been the ecosystem that existed during ten years of UPA rule, and without power one individual was in helm of affairs.
What an amount of power Sonia Gandhi was weilding as Chairperson of National Advisory Council (NAC) for a decade from 2004 poked its nose in each and every issues be it ‘Land Reforms or Farmers Loans’. NAC was reeling out datas, and passing it on to Prime Minister Office (PMO).
The inside view of NAC is an eye opener for present and future Governments. The present government headed by Narendra Modi since it got absolute majority in 2014 Lok Sabha polls and there was no attempt to have NAC like body. But can we ensure that the future Governments would not have such a powerful body for furthering the backdoor agenda? Can you imagine Pandit Hansraj Bharadwaj as Union Law Minister in 2005 was showing Government top secret files on Judiciary to Sonia Gandhi. What was the need for it? And who is she to read such notings about Judges appointments? Now let us turn to the real issue.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), was the first major piece of legislation that NAC drafted, doing so in consultation with grassroots organisations working on poverty alleviation.
The bill was tabled in the Parliament on December 21, 2004. Civil society members of NAC raised several questions. The most notable was: Why had the bill been weakened to promise just 100 days of unguaranteed employment instead of the 365 days of guaranteed work first promised in the NAC’s draft?
“Pulok, who was inducted into the Manmohan Singh PMO at the behest of Sonia Gandhi, had regular, almost daily, meetings with Sonia at which he was said to brief her on the key policy issues of the day and seek her instructions on important files to be cleared by the PM. He was also the PMO’s main point of contact with the NAC, a high-profile advisory body chaired by Sonia Gandhi, with social activists as members. It was sometimes dubbed the Shadow Cabinet”. —Sanjay Baru
Urban Naxals dominated NAC was able to question the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on MGNREGA. Especially Jairam Ramesh who was materminding these legislations also slipped into the authority of Marxists. MNREGA later was a source of breeding corruption. And the NAC supported it.
Can you imagine the NAC was a super Union Cabinet. As a matter of fact the much obedient P Chidambaram used to consult Sonia Gandhi much before the NAC could take the disinvestment decisions. One glaring example of the recent revelations of NAC file is analysed below. File (N.9) relating to the Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises contains a letter from NAC chairperson Sonia Gandhi to the then PM Manmohan Singh, dated September 16, 2004. She had been informed about the government’s plan to replace the Disinvestment Commission with a new board.
When she thought that the real issue was not being attended to by the PMO, the angry Sonia wrote to Dr Manmohan Singh, “I would like to suggest that the first item in the terms of reference of the new board should be such as to enable it to look into ways and means for strengthening public sector enterprises in general and making them more autonomous and professional. The functioning of the board should not be limited only to restructuring or advising on the closure or sale of public sector enterprises that are referred to it by the government. I hope this matter will be considered on priority and a clear decision taken before the constitution of the board for reconstruction of public sector enterprises.”
Files show the PM carried out her recommendations. On February 27, 2006, Sonia asked Manmohan to institute an apex mechanism for the manufacturing sector. “I thought that the issues outlined above needed to be taken up without delay for further consideration in the government,” read Sonia’s letter (1728/CP/NAC/06). A note in a file dated Oct 27, 2006 and addressed to Sonia revealed that “A special mechanism in the form of a high-level committee on manufacturing for implementation has been created as suggested in your letter to the PM.”
Out of hundreds of files of NAC opened to public by Modi Government speak of the one woman show. Was she comprehending it or some driving force was instigating these views on her ? Is it a foreign power or influenced by global mafia that NAC was under the thumb of the Left dominated world powers. Crucial was the issue of Nuclear Deal with the USA. Dr Manmohan Singh fought his rights and did not yeild to any pressure from Leftists.
The set up of NAC was such that Pulok Chatterjee the then IAS officer was holding dual position. One leg in NAC and the other in the PMO. He used to decide the course of actions. He put up the draft for approval of NAC on crucial issues. Once NAC recommended it to PMO, the same IAS office Pulok Chatterjee wearing a cap of Additional Secretary to Dr Manmohan Singh was initiating actions from the PMO and then to the concerned Department.
NAC that was supposed to be the advisory body for the Government to give expert input on various policy matters, in practice it turned out to be the personal Non-Governmental Organisation controlled by 10 Janpath. Sonia Gandhi wrote to P Chidambaram about the first global trust bank chief Shankar Sharma. Who authorised her to write such letters interfering in the taxation matters? Is it not extra Constitutional authority? Sonia Gandhi was certainly exercising her powers even in drafting the Union Budgets.
In 2005, it was Sonia Gandhi who sought Union Budget should include certain taxation matters. It was Geroge Fernandes as Leader of the NDA in Lok Sabha exposed this letter from Sonia Gandhi to Dr Manmohan Singh under privilege motion, alleging that the secrecy of Union Budget is compromised.
There are all evidences that point fingers towards one person and one family whether in the investigations or in files. The best part is, very few dared to question the power of this extra-Constitutional authority and its interests. Hope Michel investigation brings out more debris from the Congress ecosystem.
(The writer is Delhi-based senior journalist)