New Delhi: As the Narendra Modi government nears completing a year in office, the Congress today stepped up its offensive against the Prime Minister accusing him of weakening democracy by running a "one-man show" while scoring maximum on "arrogance" and minimum on governance.
Firing a fresh salvo at the BJP-led NDA government which completes one year in office on May 26, senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh said "Modi is running a government now where ministers don't count, where ministries don't count."
"It is a one man show and Modi is a one man government," he said while addressing reporters here.
"... In the process he (Modi) weakened the foundations of democracy. Parliament is routinely bypassed and decisions are taken in complete disregard to popular sentiment," Ramesh alleged.
After taking over as the PM last year, Modi had promised maximum governance and minimum government, Ramesh said adding that "one year later we see maximum arrogance and one man government."
He added that one year ago Modi said 'Skill India', but after one year we don't see 'Skill India' but 'Kill India'. "Killing of Parliament, killing of judiciary and killing of civil society and all these are under threat and under attack."
"One year ago, National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government took office. One year later we have MNDA -- Modi's Non-Democratic Alliance. One year ago Modi promised 'Selfless government', but after one year we see not selfless government but a "selfie" Prime Minister," he alleged.
"One year ago, Modi promised turnaround of Indian economy. But, one year later we don't have turnaround but a government of U-turns," Ramesh further claimed.
Stating that these were the five realities of the last one year of Modi government, Ramesh said the PM in the last one year has also had to eat his own words.
"BJP opposed Indo-US nuclear agreement, but Modi has now supported the agreement and we welcome that. Modi opposed GST when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat and he is now championing the GST as Prime Minister and we welcome that," Ramesh said adding "we welcome the facts that he has made these U-turns and taken positions as Prime Minister which were opposed to the positions which the BJP took when it was in opposition."
The Congress also accused the PM of muzzling all dissent besides systematically destroying democratic institutions.
"Every institution of our democracy is being systematically weakened and destroyed. MODI stands for murder-of-democratic-institutions," Ramesh said.
Of the 52 bills passed by Parliament in the last one year, only five have gone to the Standing Committee, he said adding, "When he (Modi) attends Parliament, he beats his 56-inch chest as if he is still running an election campaign. He goes to judiciary and talks about five-star activists. Civil society people are under threat; they are being investigated or offloaded from planes".
"Dissent is completely being muzzled. Ministers don't count; ministries don't count. So, for me, much more than substance, it's the style of governance that's the most worrying part, and we are headed towards becoming an illiberal democracy," he said.
According to him, the NDA dispensation is the "most closed government" in India's history.
"It has made a mockery of RTI; they don't respond to RTI. The Chief Information Commissioner has not been appointed for nine months. All power is concentrated in one man (Modi) in the PMO," Ramesh said.
"In last one year of the BJP government... Modi gets full marks for re-packaging, he gets full marks for maximum distress in rural areas and he gets full marks for reducing allocation for education, health, drinking water and sanitation, woman and child development," Ramesh said.
The Congress party will continue to expose the failures of the Modi government, Ramesh said adding for the Congress party in terms of substance, the greatest damage that Modi has done to Indian agriculture and to Indian farmers is the amendments to the land acquisition law of 2013 and open the doors to "land grab".
The one year track record of Modi clearly shows that he is a master of re-packaging, master of political marketing and of course it shows he has accumulated the largest number of frequent flyer miles internationally (with regard to foreign trips), Ramesh added.
The Congress hopes that Modi would have learnt the political lessons from the debacle in Delhi and the reactions to amendments to land acquisition across the country, Ramesh said.
Ramesh further said that in Bihar, Congress party's fundamental objective is to ensure that the secular forces defeat the BJP. "The Congress party will do all it can to ensure the defeat of BJP".
"We are confident that the elections in Bihar will send another powerful signal to the Modi government that the countdown to 2019 (general elections) has already begun in 2015. The honeymoon period (of Modi government) is over. India was taken for a giant ride in 2014," he said.
Promises were made during last year's general elections and when reminded of these promises, BJP president Amit Shah said it was an "election gimmick", Ramesh said.
"What we have seen in last one year is the complete betrayal of the convincing mandate that Modi got in 2014. And the track record of the Modi government to implement the commitments made in Parliament show a complete 'betrayal' of sovereign pledges made in Parliament," he alleged.
Reacting to another query, Ramesh said "one of the political traditions, he (Modi) has broken... very very unfortunate... never do we criticise our political opponents when we go abroad."
But, wherever Modi goes he criticises the Opposition, the Congress. This is unacceptable. This should be condemned by everybody in the strongest language.
"Modi can attack us (Congress) in India any time and he is welcome to attack and criticise us. But, when we go abroad we go there as Indians and the Prime Minister should know this. Modi has not got out of the election mode. He is still in that mode. You have never seen a Congress leader criticise the BJP when we go abroad," Ramesh said.
On Modi visiting a record 18 countries in the first year in office, the Rajya Sabha member said his foreign trips have been marked by theatrics and lot of drama. "For the first time, Modi has shown a partisan attitude on his foreign trips. When we go abroad, normally we don't carry domestic politics. You speak for the country".
He also said that before coming to power, Modi had said he would govern by "deadlines" but after assuming office what matters to him is "headlines". "So, there is lot of headlines coming out of these foreign trips. But what it actually means on the ground, only time will tell".
On BJP's statement that there was not a single scam under Modi's one-year rule, Ramesh said: "In the first year of UPA-I, there was not a single scam either. So, who knows what's happening in the government. Who knows what's lurking underneath. Things will come out".
Ramesh strongly denied BJP's charge that Congress is "obstructionist".
"We supported the government on the insurance bill", he noted and charged that the "BJP for ten years pursued the most obstructionist policy in India's parliamentary history".
Citing example of BJP's flip-flop on policies, Ramesh alleged that during the UPA rule when the then Standing Committee on Finance, headed by Yashwant Sinha (BJP), took two years and six months to give its report on the Goods and Service Tax (GST) bill and had also rejected the Unique Identification (UID) bill.
However, with the BJP assuming power Modi has now become "biggest champion" of GST and UID... "this is a U-turn government," the Congress veteran said.
On GST bill, Ramesh said the Congress wanted it to go to the Select Committee because certain provisions in the bill were not there when the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram presented it in Parliament in March 2011.
On land acquisition amendments bill, Ramesh made it clear that his party is totally opposed to it as a matter of principle and not as a matter of obstructionism.