Congress steering committee announces plenary in March, targets Modi on PNB scam
After dissolving the Congress' highest decision making body – the Congress Working Committee – and forming a 34- member steering committee to oversee the schedule of the much awaited plenary session, the party on Saturday announced that the session would be held in Delhi from 16-18 March. The decision to hold the session in the national capital was taken during the first steering committee meeting which was chaired by party president Rahul Gandhi.
During the course of the plenary session, the party will ratify Rahul Gandhi's elevation as president and elect a new working committee and state committee presidents. In the past, whenever a new party president was elected, members of the CWC members and state Congress Committee presidents are replaced or elected.
Since most of the state presidents have recently been elected, it is unlikely that it will witness any major changes. However, the CWC will be reconstituted and it is expected that those close to Rahul are expected to make the cut. With 2019 elections in mind, Rahul is likely to bring in some new faces to CWC to ensure a perfect blend of youth and experience. Congress president is looking to infuse new life into the party to take on the BJP which has been on a winning spree ever since it won the Lok Sabha elections in 2014.
Meanwhile, sources have informed that the steering committee agreed to have consultations with other Opposition parties over seeking a joint parliamentary committee probe into the Punjab National Bank Scam. The scam has given the Congress much needed ammunition to go on the offensive against the Modi government which has till now claimed to have kept a clean sheet as far as corruption is concerned.
In the past, BJP has strategically used JPCs to attack the UPA government over charges of graft. It seems Congress too will work on those same lines to taint the Modi government before the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
Emerging out of the meeting, the Congress president sharpened his attack on the government over the PNB scam and accused the Prime Minister for first forcing people to deposit their money in banks after demonetisation and then letting “his friends and cronies” steal it. “The fact of the matter is that the prime minister through his actions has destroyed the financial systems of this country. He demonetised the economy and took money from people and put it in banking sector and now his friends and cronies are stealing it from the banking sector and the Prime Minister is not saying anything,” he said.
He went on to add, “So, I would to request the Prime Minister that he should come out and instead of spending an hour and half explaining to little kids how to take exams, he should explain to the people of India about what will be done about this Nirav Modi and what he is going to do to ensure that the banking sector is safe.”
Questioning the prime minister's silence over the “Rs 22,000 crore” bank scam, Rahul pointed that different ministers, including that of Social Justice and Defence, came but “the Union finance minister and the Prime Minister, who are responsible for this, have not said a word”. He further said that a scam of this nature could not have been possible without “high level protection” and how it should have been known to people in the government.
“So, the question is that Narendra Modiji took people's money and put it in banks and in a way took responsibility that you put your money in banks and I will protect it. And now that has turned into a failure and the Prime Minister didn't utter a single word. PM will have to come out and explain what happened and why it happened and what will he do about this,” said the Congress president.
When asked about the allegations made by the BJP against Rahul knowing the accused, he said that this was all being done to divert people's attention and that the first complaint was made in 2015. He also pointed that close to 90% of transactions happened under the incumbent government. “This government constantly refuses to accept responsibility and I have said this in my meetings in Karnataka that the Prime Minister looks at the wicketkeeper and then plays cricket.”
Meanwhile, a statement released by the Steering Committee went on to claim how the “Bank Scam” has unveiled the “Culture of Crony Capitalism” that has thrived and flourished under the watch of Modi Government. “Over last 45 months, BJP Government has shown ‘zero action’ and ‘zero result’ on bringing back black money stashed abroad as promised by Prime Minister or taking action against accused in multiple corruption scams that have been exposed. ‘Zero Tolerance for Corruption’ has become ‘Zero Tolerance for Accountability on Corruption’,” read the statement.
On the issue of main accused Nirav Modi fleeing India before the scam was unearthed, the Congress claimed that the BJP government is allowing “swindlers of public funds” to leave India freely with government agencies acting as silent bystanders. In the statement, party claimed, “The great escape of Lalit Modi, Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and dozens of others accused of banking and other frauds is a case in point. Patent and latent complicity at the highest echelons of power is writ large.”