Senior Congress leader and Finance Minister P Chidambaram today said it would be much better if the same person happens to be the party president and the Prime Minister. "Ordinarily ... the party leader and the Prime Minister should be the same person... This will depend on the times we live in. Today, I believe it is much better to have party president and the PM the same person," he told NDTV.
Chidambaram was responding to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's former media advisor Sanjaya Baru who had said the real power in UPA 1 government was exercised by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
The Minister, however, rubbished Baru's claims that important files were vetted by Gandhi.
Baru has, in his book 'The Accidental Prime Minister', said the PM's Principal Secretary Pulok Chatterjee sought Gandhi's instructions on important files to be cleared by the PM. Chidambaram said that in the first few years of independence, the party president and the Prime Minister were different persons but that was the time when the PM was a tall personality and overshadowed the party president.
Replying questions on BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's projection as a strong leader, Chidambaram said the country does not need a strong leader like Hitler or Mussolini. "I have heard people say that they want a leader who is acceptable to all sections of people, who is compassionate and wise. I don't think people want a strong leader. I don't think people want Hitler or Mussolini in this country," he said.
Asked if he was referring to Modi as Hitler or Mussolini, Chidambaram said "I am not referring to anyone as Hitler or Mussolini. I am saying that there are some people who imagine that they can be strong and decisive leaders and the language they use and the body language, the images that invoke fascism".
On the controversy surrounding Robert Vadra, Chidambaram said "he is a private citizen and unless somebody files a formal complaint,... government does not voluntarily say a private citizen must be probed. "Someone must file a formal complaint either with the investigating agency or tax authority and they would look at it. Nobody has launched a formal complaint so far, then why should the government probe a private citizen"? BJP has accused Congress governments in Haryana and Rajasthan of favouring Vadra, son-in-law of Gandhi. It has also brought out a booklet and video against Vadra.
He said the case of industrialist Gautam Adani, considered close to Modi, cannot be compared with Vadra. Adani issue is about state involvement in crony capitalism, he added. On whether Priyanka Gandhi should play a bigger role in politics, Chidambaram said it is for her to decide and the party cannot pressurise her. Replying to questions on Snoopgate in Gujarat, he said one or two judges were ready to probe the allegations and it would have been better for UPA government to have cleared the name for inquiring into the case.
The Union Cabinet had on December 26 last year decided to set up the Commission of Inquiry to probe charges of illegal surveillance on a young woman in 2009 by Gujarat authorities allegedly at the behest of Modi. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde had requested the Law Minister to recommend a retired judge of the Supreme Court to head the probe panel. However, the government is yet to appoint the panel.