New Delhi: Describing Atal Bihari Vajpayee as 'Bhishma Pitamah of Indian politics', Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday appealed to the former prime minister to rise above "narrow" party politics and support the Indo-US nuclear deal.
Stating that the UPA government would seek the broadest possible consensus on the nuclear deal, Manmohan said, “I now urge the Bhishma Pitamah (grand old man) of Indian politics, Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, to also listen to the call of his conscience and let the national interest prevail over narrow and partisan approach in politics.”
Although much of Manmohan’s address to the Lower House of Parliament comprised of sarcastic rebuttals to BJP’s Prime Minister-nominee L K Advani’s attacks on the UPA government, he set aside party rivalries and lauded Vjpayee’s “courageous” efforts in fostering the Indo-Pak peace talks.
Stating that the precedent for such talks had begun with the late premiers Benazir Bhutto and Rajiv Gandhi, Manmohan acknowledged that the NDA had done their part in continuing the same and added that the UPA government was carrying on the process with Pakistan’s President, Pervez Musharraf.
“The most courageous steps to build peace were taken by Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Atal Behari Vajpayee. We have continued the process with President Musharraf,” he said.
Asserting that India wants to live in peace with Pakistan, Manmohan said, "India seeks good relations with Pakistan. The destinies of our two nations are interlinked. We need to put our past behind. We need to think about our collective destiny, our collective security and our collective prosperity."
Manmohan went on to assure the Parliament that the government would not compromise on national security in the course of making the nuclear deal with the US and noted former National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra’s support of the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.
Manmohan’s speech also carried a scathing response to Advani’s attacks on the UPA government’s policies, in particular the one-time loan waiver to farmers of Rs 60,000 crores which had been announced in the Budget.
“Doubts have been raised about the resources required for this write-off," he said in Parliament. “Let me remind the Leader of the Opposition that what we have done is nothing more than picking up the unpaid distress bill which the NDA government left behind," Manmohan had said.
The Prime Minister had blamed the NDA government for the agrarian crisis in the country.
"This distress is a legacy of the NDA rule, a rule during which policies were anti-farmer, anti-agriculture. Low Minimum Support Prices impoverished our farmers. They needed a fresh flow of credit. The tripling of agriculture credit flow by us did not address the problem of past debt."
With inputs from IANS