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Contradictions within govt made people suffer: Arun Maira

Planning Commission member Arun Maira on Tuesday said people had “suffered” because of “excessive contradictions” and “too many power centres” within the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

“There were too many power centres…not just dual (UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh)…there were too much contradictions among various people wanting to do their things, as a consequence of which people of the country suffered,” Maira told reporters at the launch of his book Redesigning The Aeroplane While Flying: Reforming Institutions.

The book, about the role of institutions within and outside the government and the need to reform those, said Congress President Sonia Gandhi called the shots on all important appointments and policies of the UPA government.

This was also alluded to by The Accidental Prime Minister, a book by Sanjaya Baru, former media advisor to the prime minister, as well as by former coal secretary P C Parakh in his book Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and other Truths. Both had said Singh was heading a government in which he had little political authority.

Maira said in his book, “Sonia Gandhi chose not to become prime minister when she led the party to a stunning victory in the national elections in 2004. Instead, she anointed a loyal technocrat, Manmohan Singh, as prime minister, while she has called the shots on all important appointments and policies. The reference to Mrs Gandhi is not to blame her, but it has been mentioned to explain the structure of our institutions that have developed….in institutions of political parties, there is a dynastic situation…We need to reform those.

“When political formations such as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) wanted to reform institutions, it scared some people; but it was a challenge that had to be grasped. I first met Arvind Kejriwal (AAP convenor) in January 2006…we discussed how movements for changing institutions could be scaled up, or rather ‘spread around’, as Arvind suggested.”

Former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, Vinod Rai, present at the book launch, said any democratic country should rely on its institutions. These entities, he added, defined the destiny of a country and there was no fixed model for this.

Rai, when CAG, saw scams related to the allocation of 2G telecom spectrum and coal blocks come to light. He said said anyone who showed intolerance towards institutions was working as an “emperor without clothes”. Unfortunately, he added, this had become a culture. “Today’s thinkers and leaders must reform and empower institutions and make these accountable, as this will determine the destiny of the country.”

Management and market research consultant Rama Bijapurkar said movements such as that launched by the AAP had demonstrated the power of active citizenry.

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