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April 2009


Statement by Shri L.K. Advani at a press conference in Gandhi Nagar (Gujarat)

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

PM has buckled under Sonia Gandhi’s pressure to bury the Bofors truth forever. For this and other sins, Congress will be punished by the electorate in the same way as in 1989

I have seen in today’s Indian Express the lead report titled “In last days of Congress-led government, Ottavio Quattrocchi is off CBI’s wanted list”. It states that the “Attorney General calls Red Corner Notice against Italian businessman an ‘embarrassment’, says ‘cannot remain in force forever’.”

This is the latest in a long series of the UPA government’s shameful acts of misuse of governmental institutions, CBI in particular, for crass partisan ends. Everybody knows that the Bofors scam has been the most political explosive corruption scandal in independent India’s history. In 1989, it led to the downfall of Rajiv Gandhi’s government, which was voted out in spite of winning a massive majority in Parliament in 1984.

Ever since the Bofors scam surfaced in April 1987, the Congress party has done everything to prevent the truth from coming out. Under pressure from 10 Janpath, the government of P.V. Narasimha Rao allowed Quattrocchi to flee India. However, the most brazen acts of subversion of justice were seen in the tenure of the UPA government. It first allowed defreezing the bank account of Quattrocchi, the Italian middleman who is the principal accused in the scandal and one known for his proximity to Sonia Gandhi’s family and hence to 10 Janpath. It later allowed him to go scot-free after having been arrested in Argentina. The last nail in the coffin of the judicial process is the latest news that the UPA government wants Quattrocchi’s name off the CBI’s “Wanted” list.

I condemn this decision of the UPA government in the strongest possible terms. I hold Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Congress president Smt. Sonia Gandhi directly responsible for colluding in this conspiracy to bury the truth about Bofors. It is obvious that he and his government have acted under instructions from 10 Janpath. His silence over the past five years on the systematic misuse of the CBI and the law ministry confirms his guilt. It also confirms my assessment that he is a weak and unworthy Prime Minister who has devalued his high office by making it subservient to the diktats of 10 Janpath.

For this and other sins, the Congress party will be punished by the electorate in the same way as in 1989.

In this context, I wish to make another important point. The BJP has pledged to bring back enormous Indian wealth illegally stashed away in secret Swiss bank accounts and other tax havens. It is worth noting that the kickbacks paid in the Bofors scandal were also deposited in secret Swiss bank accounts. Rattled by the huge public support to the BJP’s initiative, some Congress leaders are now saying in muted voices that they too are attempting to bring this money back. However, the contrast between the BJP and Congress can be clearly seen in the diametrically opposite stands of the two parties on the Bofors issue. How can the Congress leadership, which has allowed the main Bofors scamster to run away with crores of bribe money parked in a foreign bank, be trusted to bring back Indian wealth hoarded in tax havens abroad?
* * *

Massive nationwide sentiment for change of
government at the Centre

Today is the last day of campaigning in my constituency, as also in all other constituencies that go to the polls on April 30 in the third phase of polling to elect the 15th Lok Sabha. Based on the feedback from diverse sources, including our own party sources, my belief is further reinforced that there are two defining characteristics of the ongoing parliamentary elections: firstly, a massive nationwide sentiment for change of government at the Centre; and secondly, a desire to see a strong and stable alternative.

The Congress-led UPA government’s failures and betrayals are of such magnitude that the people of India have decided that it deserves to be shown the exit door. The voters will give a decisive mandate against this failed government.

One issue — the UPA government’s abysmal failure to check the prices of essential commodities, especially food items — alone is enough for the aam aadmi to conclude that the Congress deserves punishment, and not a second term. Throughout my campaign across the length and breadth of the country, people have told me that skyrocketing price rise tops the many reasons why they want a change of government at the Centre. Hence, my pledge today is that taking effective steps to control and reverse the price rise would be the very first task in the 100-day programme of a future BJP-led NDA government.

In keeping with the BJP’s commitment to make India hunger-free, we have promised in our manifesto that every BPL family would get 35 kgs of rice or wheat per month at a rate of Rs. 2 per kg. If elected to office, our government will take a decision on this matter in the very first meeting of the Cabinet.

The Prime Minister has said in a recent press interview that he would take steps to revive the economy within the first 90 days. All along, senior leaders of the government and the Congress party have shirked their own responsibility for the severe economic crisis in India by saying that it is due to external factors, specifically the recession in the western economies. Now they are promising to revive the Indian economy in the first 90 days. This hollow promise, which cannot fool the people, is nothing but an open admission of the UPA government’s failure to revive the economy so far.

My attention has been drawn to press reports that Mahamahim Rashtrapati has refused to accede to the Union government’s request to send the GUJCOCA (Gujarat Control of Organised Crime) bill back to the Gujarat government and, instead, asked the Union government to record its own recommendation in the matter. The leadership of the UPA government and the Congress party owe an explanation to the people of Gujarat and the rest of the country why they have continued to block GUJCOCA. There can be no explanation other than the Congress party’s crass votebank politics. Its approach to GUJCOCA has been no different from its approach to POTA, which it scrapped for votebank considerations. The 26/11 terrorist attacks on Mumbai forced the UPA government to do a U-turn on the need for a strong anti-terror law. The fact that it has refused to do a similar U-turn on GUJCOCA shows how the Congress party has continued to play dirty politics on the issue of fighting cross-border terrorism.

A future NDA government’s zero-tolerance policy on terrorism will be free of the poison of politicization.

* * *

My appeal to voters: For a stable govt in New Delhi, give a decisive mandate to BJP and its NDA allies

I mentioned that the second defining characteristic of the ongoing parliamentary elections is the popular desire to see a strong and stable alternative at the Centre. It is beyond a shadow of doubt that the so-called Third Front cannot fulfill this desire. The current blow-hot-blow-cold verbal duel between the Congress, its allies in the UPA government and the Left parties has discredited all of them. It has shown that the Congress does not trust these parties, and they in turn do not trust the Congress. Yet, all of them are collectively trying to fool the people that there should be a “secular” government at the Centre.

Today I appeal to the people, especially our minority brethren, to see through this bogus talk of “secular unity”. It is nothing more than a desperate attempt to prevent the formation of a BJP-led government at the Centre. India paid a heavy price due to a similar anti-democratic experiment in blind anti-BJPism in 1996, when the BJP could not form a government in spite of emerging as the single largest party with 162 MPs. It resulted in two highly unstable governments at the Centre.

The many serious internal and external challenges that India is currently facing make it clear that instability at the Centre would be disastrous for the country. Therefore, I appeal to the people to give the BJP and its allies in the NDA such a strong and decisive mandate that the 15th Lok Sabha can produce a stable government capable of meeting the formidable challenges before the nation.

Statement issued by Shri L.K. Advani to mark the release of the BJP’s Infrastructure Vision

April 22, 2009
Infrastructure Vision
Today I am pleased to present to the people of India the BJP’s Vision Document on Infrastructure Development. It articulates, in far greater detail than was possible in the Party’s Manifesto for the Elections to the 15th Lok Sabha, our broad perspectives and plans, and lays the foundations for a strong prosperous and self-confident India.

I have always believed that our country deserves infrastructure, both physical and social, that is second to none in the world and commensurate in quality and quantity with our goal of making the 21st Century India’s Century. Rapid infrastructure development is critical for accelerated economic growth, removal of unemployment, bridging the rural-urban divide, broadbasing prosperity both geographically and socially, and ensuring a better life for every citizen. Expanding and modernizing India’s infrastructure on a war footing is our solemn commitment. That the BJP can Think Big and also Implement Big, has been demonstrated by the Vajpayee Government’s two dream projects: the National Highway Development Project (NHDP) and the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. If elected to form the next Government at the Centre, we will be more ambitious and result-oriented than any previous Government in New Delhi.

For example, in the first 50 years of Independence, India built highways at the rate of 11 km per year. The NDA Government (1998-2004) achieved a rate of 11 km per day! The rate has dropped to less than 5 km per day during the UPA rule. A future NDA Government will speed up the implementation of NHDP by building highways at a rate of 20 km per day.

The big gap between India’s physical infrastructure needs, current as well as projected, and the ground reality is mainly due to the prolonged neglect and misrule by successive governments of the Congress party, which has governed India for the longest period since Independence. Be it highway construction, power generation, irrigation, rural electrification or railway expansion, the past five years of the UPA rule have proved to be a disaster for infrastructure development. Partha Mukhopadhyay, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, has vividly described the UPA Government’s failure on the infrastructure front. “It may not be accurate to accuse this government of dropping the ball on infrastructure, for it never picked it up. The next government…will have its work cut out for redressing these deficiencies.” (Live Mint, 23 March 2009)

I am confident that the next Government will be a BJP-led NDA Government with the participation of several new allies. Our Government will meet the infrastructure challenge squarely with well thought out policies and programmes, and implement them with a firm commitment to our stated theme of Good Governance, Development and Security. The Infrastructure Vision document has rightly identified that the main constraint in infrastructure development in India is not as much the availability of finance as poor governance. Faulty policy and legal framework, corruption, red tape, political interference, lack of intra-Governmental coordination, judicial delays, and lack of autonomy and accountability at the execution level have paralyzed project delivery. The document lists very specific Good Governance measures that we will take to remove these deficiencies.

BJP recognizes that 80% of infrastructure development in India still requires public investment. This underscores the paramount role of Government in planning, financing and time-bound execution of projects, including projects under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) framework. Aware of this responsibility, a future BJP-led NDA Government will take bold steps to boost efficiency of project delivery in the public sphere and facilitate project implementation in the private sphere. India’s public sector, which has amassed tremendous experience in infrastructure project implementation over the decades, is our national pride. The NDA Government will strengthen the public sector, and enable it to make its fullest contribution to infrastructure expansion in India. At the same time, we will also fully encourage participation by India’s private sector, which has grown enormously both in size and project implementation capability. The Government will fully leverage the private sector’s resources and capabilities by aggressively expanding the scope of Public-Private Partnerships.

One of the many salient features of the BJP’s Infrastructure Vision is the commitment to adopt 100 Projects of National Importance (PNIs) from different sectors and ensure their time-bound implementation. These include:

WATER: Vision — ‘Har Haath Ko Kaam, Har Khet Ko Paani’ (Employment to every hand, Water to every farm-land) and Clean Drinking Water to every home. To achieve this, (i) speedy implementation of the river-linking project. (ii) Completion of major irrigation and drinking water projects. (iii) Construction of at least one new water conservation facility (pond, check dam, etc.) in each of the six lakh villages in the country and universalisation of rainwater harvesting in urban India. (iv) Massive expansion of micro-irrigation systems to promote the goal of ‘More Crop Per Drop’.

ENERGY & POWER: Vision — Affordable electricity, 24x7, to every home, every farm, every factory. For this, (i) addition of 120,000 MW of power generation capacity in five years. (In its five years, UPA added less than 30,000 MW.) (ii) Of this, an ambitious target of 20% from non-conventional sources such as wind, solar and biomass-based projects. The best brains will be invited from around the world to work on a National Mission for Energy Conservation and Adoption of Green Technologies to make India a global leader in Green Energy. (iii) Within 100 days, launch a new programme to replace the failed Rajiv Gandhi Vidyutikaran Yojana (where the coverage for BPL families in the UPA regime has been an abysmal 6%). The new NDA program would award franchises that guarantee universal coverage within five years. (iv) NDA will also launch vigorous international initiatives that ensure India’s long term energy security.

ROADS: Vision — World-class highways linking every Indian city and pucca roads linking every Indian village. (i) Completion of all components of the National Highway Development Project — Golden Quadrilateral, East-West-North-South Corridors, and District Highways. (ii) Completion of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana before 2014. (iii) National Mission for Road Safety to reduce by half fatalities (130,000 per year) in road accidents.

RAILWAYS: Vision — To make railways more accessible, comfortable and safer for every Indian, and to further strengthen the role of railways as an engine of economic growth. For this, (i) completion of all pending rail network expansion projects in a time-bound manner. (ii) Dedicated Freight Corridors connecting Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, and these to other mineral and industrial hubs. (iii) Modernization of 100 important railway stations. (iv) Urban mass transit (metro rail) systems in the 25 largest cities of India.

PORTS AND SHIPPING: Vision — To make Indian ports among the best in the world. For this, (i) launch of ‘Sagar Mala’ project for a massive expansion and modernization of India’s port and shipping infrastructure. (ii) Development of inland waterways in at least five important stretches. (iii) Improve efficiency of port operations so as to reduce the average number of days it takes to clear import cargo from 20 to 5. (iv) Make India a major hub for ship-building.

CIVIL AVIATION: Vision — To make air-travel more affordable, more comfortable, more universal and more safe. For this, (i) modernization of airport infrastructure in every state capital and important commercial centre. (ii) Improve linkages from city centres to airports with the help of expressways, MRT and buses. (iii) Make India a hub of aircraft production, repair and overhaul.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS & IT: Vision — To consolidate the gains of the ICT Revolution in ‘India’ and bring its benefits to ‘Bharat’. For this, (i) National Digital Highway Development Project for the creation of a robust, fault-resilient, redundant-capacity national Internet backbone. (ii) Pradhan Mantri Gram Digital Sadak Yojana for nationwide last mile connectivity. (iii) Unlimited broadband Internet connectivity to every village at cable TV prices. (iv) Increase mobile phone subscribers from the present 40 crore to 100 crore; and achieve parity between mobile and Internet users. (v) E-Bhasha, a national mission for promotion of IT in Indian languages. (vi) Develop a globally competitive IT hardware industry in India to reduce dependence on imports. (vii) Multi-purpose National ID Card Project to be completed in three years. (viii) Prepare a plan for creating 1.2 crore IT-enabled jobs in rural areas.

RURAL AND AGRI-INFRASTRUCTURE: Vision — To bring prosperity, employment opportunities and vibrancy to our villages. For this, our guiding concept will be PURA (Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas). (i) Providing kisans with 24x7 electricity supply (as has already been achieved in Gujarat through the Jyotigram Yojana). (ii) Pucca, all-weather road connectivity to every village. (iii) Provision of clean drinking water and total rural sanitation. (iv) A national programme for modernization of agricultural markets (Mandis), including legislative reform of their functioning to reduce intermediaries, so that farmers get better price for their produce. (v) Massive investment in agro-support infrastructure like grain banks, cold storage houses and agro-processing units within rural clusters. (vi) Reforming the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in such a way that it can make better contribution to creation of durable rural infrastructure with zero corruption.

Setting up NIFMA and empowering 100 Sreedharans: The NDA will set up a high-powered National Infrastructure Facilitation and Monitoring Agency (NIFMA), along the lines of FIPB in the ’90s, with a clear mandate to accelerate the implementation of PNIs. The composition of NIFMA, featuring the best of talent from the public and private sectors, itself will reflect the spirit of innovative public-private partnership. It will provide quarterly updates to the nation on the progress of PNIs and other projects. The NIFMA will report to the Prime Minister.

The NDA recognizes that infrastructure development needs decisive, results oriented and inspirational leadership. India has huge managerial talent. Unfortunately, our managers rarely get the autonomy and requisite powers, coupled with clear accountability norms, to show their true mettle. Whenever a right manager for the right project has been given the right powers to execute, we have seen amazing results. Shri E. Sreedharan of the Delhi Metro is a notable example, but there are many more. The NDA will create an environment of top-level managerial empowerment for the emergence of 100 Sreedharans who can “make things happen”.

Financing infrastructure development: The estimated investment needed to make a big dent in infrastructure deficit in the country over the next five years is Rs. 25,00,000 crore or $500bn. Although mobilization of this amount looks a formidable task, the NDA assures the nation that it will meet the challenge successfully. The NDA is committed to bring back the enormous black money stashed away in tax havens abroad. This will be used towards the development of infrastructure in our country. India’s forex reserves (now standing at $247.3 billion) will be tapped for funding infrastructure development.

National Integrated Urban Renewal Mission: The NDA will recast and vastly expand the coverage of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Renewal Mission into four urban renewal missions:

• Jawaharlal Nehru Metro Renewal Mission (for about 40 cities with a population of more than 10 lakh);
• Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel District Centre Renewal Mission (for all the 600 plus district towns, other than those covered in JNMRM);
• Netaji Bose Tehsil Town Renewal Mission (for all the 4,000 plus taluka towns); and
• Pavitra Bharat Teerthasthan Renewal Mission (for the pilgrimage centres of all faiths).

At least 15 Indian cities will be developed as Global Cities in 5 years, with world-class airports, efficient mass transportation system, high quality social infrastructure, vibrant cultural life and a dynamic environment for economic growth with strong global linkages. At least 10 new cities will be developed on a futuristic standard of planning and infrastructure.