New Delhi, Jan 10: Remember the most melodramatic scenes after the 2004 Lok Sabha elections? How the Congressmen- all and sundry- were imploring Congress President Sonia Gandhi to assume the mantle of Prime Minister and how they glorified her ‘polite’ ‘no’ to their request? But she did not give up her hidden agenda of ruling the country. How she could achieve this is now revealed in those over 700 files of the National Advisory Council (NAC) the present government has decided to make public.
The NAC was the brainchild of Sonia Gandhi that was founded to ‘guide’ the government in matters related to policy-making in coal, power, disinvestment, real estate, governance, social and industrial sectors etc.
It was a wonderful ploy that provided an ecosystem allowing Sonia Gandhi an absolute authority over the government of the day but no accountability between 2004 and 2014. These files revealed the influence of the NAC during this period.
According to ‘The New Indian Express’, the files revealed that the Manmohan Singh government followed the suggestions of the NAC without questioning them. The NAC would summon top bureaucrats to its office situated at 2, Motilal Nehru Place, communicated with ministers and sought compliance reports overstepping its brief that defined its function as a body to provide inputs for policy formulation and support the government in legislative business. The content of the files showed that the UPA government had no choice but to implement the NAC recommendations.
October 29, 2005, minutes of the NAC meeting said: ““It was agreed that while implementation of the various recommendations of the commission would be the direct responsibility of the government agencies and other institutions, it would still be imperative to monitor and evaluate this process, closely, independently and credibly.”
That Sonia Gandhi lacked faith in the capabilities of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was clear from this mention in the NAC files (File no. 11012/2/2014-NAC dated February 25). It showed that the NAC was sending recommendations to the government on various issues.
“The recommendations on ‘Development of sports in the NE’ have already been communicated to the government by the chairperson vide letters dated 21st February 2014. The recommendations on ‘Development of cooperatives in India’ are also being sent to the government with the approval of chairperson,” a note in the file said.
NAC as Super Cabinet
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 reconstitute the Disinvestment Commission and set up a new board in its place.
Sonia wrote, “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 Prime Minister carried out her recommendations. On Feb 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 Prime Minister.” (Additional inputs from agencies)