UPA, NDA joust at Assocham meet

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NEW DELHI, July 20:  A function organised by captains of industry turned partially political on Friday as the UPA and NDA battled each other on the issue of governance and performance.

Earlier, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought to defend the government’s performance during the UPA rule at the annual general meeting of Assocham. The NDA representatives — led by Bharatiya Janata Party president Rajnath Singh and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray — went on to launch a counter attack on the same forum.

The Prime Minister said the UPA government had an overall track record to be proud of. He said the government’s political critics were playing to the gallery and taking advantage of the UPA having had “one bad year”: “This makes for good television but it presents a much-distorted picture.”

Outlining the achievements of the UPA’s nine-year rule, the Prime Minister said: “I agree we have had one bad year. I assure you we will get out of it.”

Stressing that his government would leave no stone unturned to ensure that the economy rebounds, Dr. Singh asserted that his government would stay the course to achieve the collective national goals.

Comparing the UPA’s performance figures with that of the NDA regime, Dr. Singh suggested his government had done better — with respect to agriculture and rural wages, poverty levels, and growth.

The BJP president, in his turn, said the country was facing a credibility crisis — even at the international level — due to the failure of the UPA government.

He said the NDA regime had performed well, faced with the issue of political untouchability, with 24 allies. Economists around the world had praised the government and Indians had been sought after to participate in global economic activities, he maintained.

At present, Mr. Singh charged, investor confidence had been shattered with the rising fiscal and current-account deficits. The depreciation of the rupee had added to the woes of domestic entrepreneurs too.

Contending that the NDA government had had a current account surplus, Mr. Singh said both fiscal deficit and inflation had been under control and a sizeable number of infrastructure projects pending since 1980 had been completed during the six years of NDA rule.

He charged that the UPA government lacked in transparency and fell short of effective governance as result of which the government was rocked by major corruptions as never before.

The BJP president accused the Prime Minister of lacking the confidence and commitment he had displayed after returning to power in 2009. The Prime Minister had promised to bring inflation down within six months, then sought another six months, and now, refrained from even speaking of the issue, he said.

Comparing the Prime Minister with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Mr. Rajnath Singh said Dr. Singh was an economist and not a realist who understood ground realities. He said vision and firm conviction could transform the country into an economic power.

The Shiv Sena chief, on his part, asserted that the NDA would come to power in 2014 and outstrip the UPA’s performance.

Mr. Thackeray said the country had no takers abroad because “the promises made during the past 60 years” had “not been kept”. Holding that a strong, trustworthy government was the need of the hour, Mr. Thackeray said it was unclear who was running the country — the government, the media, the judiciary or some NGO.

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