With the elections nearing in, political parties are leaving no stones unturned to woo voters. Congress, which is struggling to save its political ground, has been indulging in populist schemes and appeasement tactics. In a similar move, Sonia Gandhi had indicated towards reviving the National Advisory Council (NAC), which many termed as the ‘Super Cabinet’ in Manmohan Singh’s Government. NAC was set up with the advent of Manmohan Singh Government in 2004 and was dissolved as the Narendra Modi government took charge in 2014. Sanjay Baru, who was the media advisor and chief spokesperson (PMO) from May 2004 until August 2008, on NAC intervention in PMO had said “Pulok, who was inducted into the Manmohan Singh PMO at the behest of Sonia Gandhi, had regular, almost daily meetings with Sonia at which he was said to brief her on the key policy issues of the day and seek her instructions on important files to be cleared by the PM. He was also PMO’s main point of contact with the NAC, a high-profile advisory body chaired by Sonia Gandhi, with social activists as members. It was sometimes dubbed the Shadow Cabinet”.
Addressing an event ‘jan sarokar’ at Talkatora Stadium, Sonia Gandhi had attacked the BJP and said ‘today we are being taught a new definition of patriotism’. Sonia emphasized on the involvement and inclusion of civil society in the planning and execution of laws and policies. Sonia Gandhi was joined by leaders of other political parties and civil groups including CPI National Secretary D Raja, AAP’s Sanjay Singh, DMK’s TKS Elangovan and CPI (ML)’s Kavita Krishnan among others. CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, NCP chief Sharad Yadav, RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav and Swaraj India’s Yogendra Yadav were also present during the event.
Many believe that Sonia’s reference to involvement of civil society is an indication towards revival of the infamous National Advisory Council. National Advisory Council was an advisory set up in 2004 after UPA took over. Sonia Gandhi had served as the chairperson of the council for a major portion of its existence. NAC consisted of various controversial members like Jean Dreze, who was detained by the Jharkhand Police for violating of the code of conduct. He had organized a public meet in highly sensitive Maoist affected Dumka in Jharkhand. Dumka which features in the 90 Naxal affected districts in India is under scanner for maintaining robust security for the upcoming general elections. Jean Dreze with other organizers failed to take permission from the local authorities for the said event, so he was detained by the police under preventive detention laws in the Bishenpur Police station.
Sonia called for voting a nishpaksh (impartial) government in the center while attacking the current government for alienating citizens based of caste, religion and Language. “Today we are being taught a new definition of patriotism; those who do not believe in diversity are termed as patriots. Caste, religion and ideological differences are being used to create divisions among the people of the country”, she said in the gathering. She also alleged that the institutional structures which have been made and nurtured for decades are under attack from the current government. She also emphasized on the need for a ‘secular government’ at the center.
Sonia Gandhi was also joined by senior congress leaders Jairam Ramesh, Digvijay Singh and Ahmed Patel. In the address Sonia Gandhi also said that if it wins it will assure involvement of civil societies in a meaningful way. “I am standing shoulder to shoulder only because we all have the same vision and understanding of the principles of the country.” she said.