Monday, September 24, 2012
'Manmohan should not threaten the Opposition'
Monday, September 17, 2012
Interview with senior BJP leader and former union finance minister Yeshwant Sinha for Teekhi Baat on IBN7
PC: You do so much sweet talk, you must do some Teekhi Baat too. One does not whether BJP leaders are with the government or not. Who are you with?
YS: Don’t you know? You keep so much information about the BJP and are asking me?
PC: The BJP I knew, that BJP is over.
YS: You are being unfair to me
PC: When I read the standing committee, I felt that you want to help the government, unleash reforms, bring the insurance and other bills. When we follow speeches, we feel only Yeshwant Sinha wants the government to fall, all the others are hand in glove.
YS: You will have to see both the things in different light. The standing committee of parliament is an all party committee. In every standing committee, a member makes a point of view moving above the party and the political viewpoint. The whole committee felt that these decisions need to be taken to bring about an improvement in the economy. That report was made and presented before the parliament. And the political viewpoint that you are talking about, that differs from the committee’s point of view, in that I protest.
PC: You don’t do politics in committee, but outside you do
YS: This is a very good thing about the Indian democracy that commonly there is no politics in committees.
PC: The past session of parliament you did not let happen. But instead of constructive attitude, you attempt to cripple the government by opposing on every issue. Isn’t this is a result of shock that the party is in.
YS: I don’t know on what basis are you saying that what we decide in committee, we don’t support it in the house.
PC: When the parliament does not function, how would it happen?
YS: When parliament functions, it happens, this time it didn’t as 12-15 days the session did not happen
PC: The whole session was a washout
YS: No, even then, two bills were passed. I personally know that there was a consensus, and those two bills were passed.
PC: Those happened in the first two days
YS: No, not in the first two days, but amidst shouts and commotion. And we had no objections in those, hence we told the government that pass those
PC: The IIT one, AIIMS type institution, in which your states too were going to get benefit
YS: There were two. Regarding the working of the government, based on my knowledge I want to give two-three examples. This government brought direct access code bill, this was initiated when Chidambaram was finance minister, then it came to Pranab Mukherjee, he finalized it and presented it before the parliament, then it came to our committee, our committee gave a serious thought to it, gave its request to the house, and with satisfaction I want to tell that the requests, recommendations that we gave, were welcomed, that they were mature recommendations. After that it went to the government, the government put the GAAR chapter in the budget, which should not have been done, after that when Pranab Mukhrjee relinquished charge, Manmohan Singh came, formed Parsarthy Shome committee, that you look into the issue, then said to postpone it for three years. Now the incumbent finance minister saying that we will not implement the Direct Access Code bill from April 1, 2013, we postpone it. One example, when you presented the bill after putting thought to it, then what is the meaning of thinking two, three, four times. Second example is of land acquisition, it is very important, even that the government presented after putting a lot of thought to the issue, then it went to the standing committee, which gave its report, after that this government made GoM, the GoM’s request went to the cabinet, and five ministers of this government opposed the bill,
PC: What do you mean to say?
YS: I want to say that without thinking or understanding, as far as legislations are concerned, this government acts first, then starts thinking.
PC: Then it fails?
YS: Yes, that is why it is failing. In today’s time, there are 11 bills for which our standing committee has given its report, which are pending for eleven years, who is responsible?
PC: I understand what you are saying. The last session of budget did run, the one before that was a washout, every time it happens, like the prices of diesel was increased by Rs. 5, you party went behind them with a stick,
PC: But when you were the finance minister, you also increased the prices of fuel many times. 10-12 times you also increased. You are opposing everything but what would you have done in the current situation we are in
YS: I replied to such a question in the house too, because the Congressmen asked such a question. I said when we increased prices, did you welcome me on Vijay Chowk, garlanded me? What did you do? You used to with a garland of shoes on junctions,
PC: Tit for tat?
YS: Tit for tat will happen in today’s politics. Because even the Congress, the current Prime Minister is such a big economist, show me his one statement stating what Yeshwant Sinha did was right and we should not oppose.
PC: It shows behaviour revenge in you
YS: Then what behaviour are they showing, even today.
PC: They are running the government in today’s times
YS: No, they are running the government on the one side and attacking the Bharatiya Janta Party one the other. It seems as if we are in the government, and they are in opposition, and they are attacking, and we are less aggressive than them.
PC: Yeshwant Sinha, it is their job, they increased prices of diesel by Rs. 5, before that of petrol
YS: I will support today’s decision if Manmohan Singh stands up today and apologize to the nation that when NDA government had increased prices, and we opposed, then we had committed a mistake, today was request and apology for the same, let them do it
PC: You are opposing it politically
YS: Certainly. Politics will happen, what world do you live in? And I would like to tell you that in this country if you want consensus on issues of economic progress, then there should be one code of conduct for everybody. And not implemented for today, for the next two years, but for all the coming times. Let us sit down and work out that code of conduct.
PC: You are sitting and threatening the government, Yeshwant Sinha, who is listened to more these days than earlier times, that you will not let the government take any economic step, with a revengeful feeling
YS: No, I did not say this
PC: You said, politics, tit for tat?
YS: I said that they should look within, sir, out of the 65 years, we have been in government for only six years, all other times, these people were in power. Then they opposed us for six years. Today why do you expect that we will support them.
PC: In the country’s interest, you talk of nation’s interest
YS: Wasn’t it in the interest of the country then? When their time comes you will say let them go, when our times gives you will give us lessons in merit. I want the nation’s economic progress. I want to give you an example, their pension fund bill, which would not have been presented in the Lok Sabha, if the BJP would not have given immediate support. After that when Pranab Mukherjee was finance minister, he held discussions with us, we told them to accept some suggestions, he immediately agreed to those, even then who are holding those bills till today? These have been held by their own alliance partner Trinamool Congress, and then what should we do now?
PC: You are opposing FDI in retail
YS: We are opposing on grounds of principles.
PC: But it was tabled during your time
YS: Not in our time, during their time.
PC: You are opposing just to oppose
YS: FDI in retail is a big issue, hence cannot discuss it in full on Teekhi Baat
PC: I know it cannot be discussed in full
YS: FDI in retail is a big issue, and we have a principled opposition, that is why we are opposing.
PC: Prime Minister is an economist, why does he want to do FDI in retail, he is trying to build consensus for the past three years.
YS: This is the tragedy, that an economist Prime Minister cannot understand these simple things.
PC: You mean he didn’t study his economics right
YS: May be, he wouldn’t have
PC: What would you have done the kind of condition that is prevailing?
YS: This is not a hypothetical question for me, that what would I have done, if I had been.
PC: You should have an agenda to be one?
YS: We have an agenda and we have done it and shown. I have never said that what will I do when I will become finance minister, I was finance minister for five years of this country, and we have shown, and you have to remember that the current international situation that is prevailing, the situation was much more tougher when we had come to power.
PC: When you came for first time you came when Chandrashekhar was Prime Minister, you sold god
YS: We did not sell
PC: You mortgaged the country
YS: We saved the country, and proudly I want to tell, that people today realize that nation saving work that we did
PC: You don’t have any magic want, you yourself admitted that to doing political opposition, there is no merit based opposition.
YS: It is not so, you are putting words into my mouth. I want to make it clear, that when we took a step forward on the basis of merit. Then the Congress party, with Manmohan Singh, and other capable people, then used to continuously oppose us. If they accept their mistake, then we are ready to speak to them on merit.
PC: But it seems to me that you don’t want to debate because you don’t want to face the truth
YS: The debate that you are talking about
PC: Not only coal gate but everything.
YS: There has been a debate on every issue. I started a debate on inflation in Lok Sabha, not only discussion happened, but a proposal was passed, that the government would immediately take steps to control inflation. What happened to that? Sir, only the proposal was passed
PC: You have studied economics, also while preparing for IAS, have been finance minister, all over the world, the growth rate of inflation stops, but inflation keeps on happening. It is a natural process? 10 per cent, 9 per cent, 8 per cent, 6 per cent
YS: Sometimes 1, sometimes, 3,
YS: It is essential .When you as what program do you have, if we want to improve the starting point of the economy, then the starting point should be inflation. If you cannot control inflation, you cannot control interest rate, if you cannot control interest rate, then there would be no investment, if investment will not happen, then there would be no goods coming to the market. If the good done come, then you again get stuck in a vicious cycle and the price of the goods would keep on increasing.
PC: The question is from 1991 to 1996, Narsimha Rao and Manmohan Singh started a reform process, not delving into whether it benefitted or not, but want to say that the Congress lost after that. You came to power, you kept continued, kept policies going. What happened in the country, from 1991 to 2012, the population of poor has increased. The rich population have become richer. The one with one aircraft has 20 now. The net worth of industrialist has risen from 1 billion dollars to 50 billion dollars. Dosen’t it seen that both the parties are responsible for making the rich, richer, and the poor, even poorer, policies of both the parties.
YS: We reject this charge,
PC: What happens in stock market, if it rises Yeshwant Sinha’s popularity rises, otherwise it comes down. Even P Chidambaram and Manmohan Singh see the stock market
YS: Stock market has to be seen and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana should also be started. Who started Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana? Who introduced Kisan Credit Card ? If today, twelve crore farmer families have Kisan Credit Card, sir that work of the NDA government. If today the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana is reaching every village, that is our work. If we started the water shed mission, we started it so that the irrigation should spread across farms. We started to make godowns, so that farmers should benefit. We have taken a lot of steps for the farmers benefit.
PC: Even after that more farmers are committing suicide, irrigation is still inadequate, there is no rainfall and people are in trouble,
YS: If in six years, we would have solved all the problems of the world, then it would have been the end of history. One needs time, the work that has not been done in 40-45 years, it takes time to do that. It is not an easy issue
PC: You said you did lot of good work. Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana was most successful, a lot of roads were made, which were not made later after that. But even then, you lost two elections, one after the other, somewhere there is something amiss
YS: You have asked a very good question, let me supplement it, during Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee times, very good work did happen of building national highways.
PC: 11 km road per day average road was made
YS: Yes, after that start form West Bengal to Haryana, Punjab, I saw the figures, national highway number two, which is also known as Sher Shah Suri Marg, it had 14 such constituencies, in which Bharatiya Janta Party had won, in the 1998 elections, in the 2004 elections, we lost all those seats. Why? Road were made, it is not that the road wasn’t made, road was made, but the people did not link the road with the votes. This is a big question which you should think on that what you are saying is development, how much it affected voting during elections?
PC: Means development alone dosen’t work
YS: That has its own momentum,
PC: The slogan of development
YS: Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
PC: Let me come to coal gate, does corruption work then? You did not let the parliament function on the issue of coal gate. Many of your chief ministers are involved in that.
YS: You are saying wrong, totally. But I want to say that it is very difficult to say what works in elections. I have fought many elections, I don’t know how many have you contested
PC: Not even one, barring teacher association of Delhi University
YS: I have fought many elections, lost and won. And let me tell you it is very difficult to say what issue would work in which elections. And what issue will work where. Let me give you an example of Chattisgarh and Jharkhand, In Chattisgarh, we won 10 out of 11 seats in one election. In Jharkhand we lost 13 out of 14 seats. Both states are neighbouring, what was the air which was different in Jharkhand and different in Chattisgarh. Why? Because issues are different.
PC: I am coming to coal gate because, you politics changed so much ,you became negative, why did you run away in coal gate, Yeshwant Sinha is so aggressive normally in Lok Sabha, it seems that the villain of the show is Yeshwant Sinha, but you people are hand in glove.
YS: I dismiss the assertion that people are hand in glove. The allegation that you are levelling time and again is not right. The whole Bharatiya Janta Party fought on the issue of coal gate.
PC: In New Indian Express, we published a letter of Munda saab, that give a certain coal block to certain company, it was allotted in two days
YS: You are doing a big mistake, it is a duty of the chief minister of a state to request, the decision is to happen in the central government. When did we say that if somebody made a request that means that every request is wrong, I am saying it is a matter of investigation that which request was wrong and which was right. And today a CBI investigation is on because of the appeal made by two BJP MP’s, Prakash Javdekar and Hansraj Ahir, they first wrote a letter to CVC, and then CVC told the CBI to investigate. The investigation is happening because we demanded. If we had something to hide, would our two MP’s come ahead and demand an investigation. And today in the CBI investigation, the facts that are coming forward, layer by layer, who is getting exposed in that?
PC: Many Congress people names are coming, your number will also come?
YS: Let it come, we will see
PC: In spectrum Pramod Mahajan’s name is going to come, you are the one who was creating the most coming in JPC of 2G
YS: No name of his is going to come , don’t go by the newspapers. I am a member of the JPC, I know what the facts are. But today I am not in a position to reveal them. But I will tell you that we fear no investigation. In 2g, the scam happened form 2007-08, they said that they will investigate from 1998, we said do it. They said that they will investigate, allocation of coal blocks during NDA tenure, do it
PC: but this negative approach, in coal gate
YS: We are not negative,
PC: Then why don’t you do discussion in parliament
YS:We are doing discussion in Janta Ki Panchayat
PC: Janta ki Panchayat, then what is the Parliament for? Is the parliament there for making laws or not? You are elected ,Yeshwant Sinha has been elected by the people.
YS: Remember 2G, the winter session of 2010 was consumed by it, because we told the parliament to form a JPC, the government said they will not form. And the whole session went by.
PC: After that JPC was formed
YS: After that JPC was formed. Then who is responsible,
PC: But this time you have not made demand for JPC
YS: We are not demanding, because there is no meaning of JPC.
PC: Even JPC is political now
YS: It has become political, PAC has become political. The way of working of the Congress party, that is to engage in corruption and then to keep on denying it. Then if anybody is involved, keep on denying that too. Make attempts to save people till the end. And then create form problem in the investigation,
PC: Then why people, allies, don’t stand with you. During earlier times, a lot of people used to be with you. Why nobody is ready to stand by you? Has the BJP’s credibility gone so low,
YS: There is no loss of credibility sir, in the coming days, as we come near the elections, the issues will come forth. Why are you getting excited from now?
PC: At you place the discussion is who will become Prime Minister, and your allies say he will become Prime Minister, we will not let Modi become Prime Minister
YS: This should happen, it is a democratic country, there should be discussions held on every issue. And it is a very important issue, that who will be the BJP’s Prime Minister. And if we get a chance, a discussion should be held on that, the more the discussion, the better
PC: Nitish Kumar says, you deputy chief minister there says.
YS: It is no decision, it is discussion. When the time comes, a decision would be taken.
PC: At your place the fight is over people, not ideological.
YS: Whatever is happening now, all is in the realm of discussion, when the right time comes, decision would be taken.
PC: What is the party ideology, should the party’s prime ministerial candidate be announced in time or not
YS: That would be decided when the time comes.
PC: Why do you feel
YS: I don’t feel anything.
PC: You name is not coming anywhere
YS: How would my name come, I am a ordinary party worker. Ordinary Member of Parliament, won only three times, and what experience do I have? Only of finance and external ministry, some of government service, then how somebody like me can become Prime Minister of this country
PC: You are very active these days, you have started doing press conferences, do you think session would run in future.
PC: The coming session
YS: When the next session comes, we will announce our strategy, at appropriate time
PC: Which means this strategy was limited to this session
YS: Daily strategy is decided.
PC: You said that your demand stands till the Prime Minister does not resign
YS: Please listen, our leader of opposition in Lok Sabha said, she tried to find a way out,
PC: To listen to two conditions
YS: But the government did not listen. Who is responsible then?
PC: The two conditions were to cancel allocation the other was to enquiry under Judge, till the next session many would be cancelled
YS: Let see what happens.
PC: Now Prime Minister’s resignation is no condition
YS: Certainly, it is a condition, we have never left it. But the discussion that the parliament should function, parliament should function in what condition; we said that do this, then the session would run. We will demand this to the Prime Minister
PC: Last question, you have been finance minister, the incumbent Prime Minister has been finance minister and Prime Minister, if you have to give a brief about the today’s economic policy and politics, what would that be?
YS: I will say that to run the economic policy, a leadership is needed, a strong leadership, which is lacking heavily in this government.
PC: And politics
YS: There is no politics, Prime Minister is not a politician.
PC: Do you have leaders as alternative
YS: Many are there.
PC:You have economic policy and leader
PC: Let see what in store in future. Thank you for coming to our studio.
YS: Thank you, Prabhuji !
A good report in New York won’t necessarily ensure victory in New Delhi
Excess is bad. Excessive romance with reforms is turning out be worse. During the past two decades, money-minded market movers have not only defined the politics of economics, but also dictated the narrative of governance. For them, it is conspicuous consumption and visible economic power, and not eradication of poverty, that are real growth symbols. They feel that our elected representatives always abhor good economics because it is bad politics. It is only in India that bookworms-turned-economists decide the definition of good politics and pompously prescribe prescriptions for economic revival. They are determined to destroy the concept of a welfare state which strikes a balance between liberalisation and the equitable distribution of prosperity.
Last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh finally woke up from his deep slumber to prove his Cassandras wrong. Within 48 hours, he approved FDI in retail, foreign investment in aviation and disinvestment in profitable PSUs. This came immediately after a massive rise in diesel prices and the rationing of subsidised LPGs. All these proposals had been pending with him for the past two years. But he had refused to move. When he finally did, it was mainly to counter the foreign media’s acerbic attacks and to influence rating agencies. His brave words of wisdom were meant less to dispel the impression of an underperformer or a leader of a paralysed government and more to do with keeping his foreign, and not domestic, constituency in good humour. Unfortunately, unlike his many predecessors, including Indira Gandhi who treated motivated foreign opinion-makers with the contempt they deserved, Manmohan and his team start shivering when confronted with any scathing attack from the non-voting classes based in India and abroad. According to senior Congress leaders, many ministers believe that Team Manmohan is convinced that a successful flirtation with New York will ensure victory in New Delhi for him and the Congress.
But his emphasis was once again on good economics which was perceived as bad politics, not only by a large section of his own party but even by his powerful allies. Unlike in the past, the Congress party is totally isolated on an issue which should have been seen as a step in the right direction. It is another story that the Prime Minister was pushed by aggressive New Age reformers like Commerce Minister Anand Sharma to bite the bullet. But the packaging of the revived reforms also reignited the ongoing war between good economics and good politics. Big Bang Friday was yet another example of the Prime Minister taking the right decisions at the wrong time. Plagued with a rising fiscal deficit, the government is left with no other option but to tighten its belt and rationalise subsidies. Since the past few years, UPA II has been forced to announce various welfare schemes that take away over 20 per cent of its revenue. It has also been forced to be liberal with the corporate sector, which has hugely benefitted from massive tax concessions. The government has forgone revenue of over `5 lakh crore as dole to India Inc. This growing profligacy is eroding the government’s credibility. During the past eight years, the government hasn’t shown any serious concerns about the rising cost of governance. The nation is being governed by the largest-ever Cabinet since Independence. In addition, the Prime Minister has accommodated two dozen fellow travellers from the corporate sector and retired civil servants by giving them Cabinet status. In the name of protecting consumer interests, a large number of regulatory institutions have been established which have added more to the woes of the same people they are expected to protect. New departments, commissions, panels and expert groups have been created to advise the government on various issues which haven’t been resolved.
Unfortunately, huge monetary concessions to the corporate sector have been termed as good economics. Here lies the total disconnect between good politics and good economics. Our reform-minded politicians have failed to conceive a framework of good politics which leads to correct economic decisions. Since the only objective of our politicians is to retain power at any cost, they would also like to make their electoral constituency rich and educated. Investment in education, health, rural connectivity, drainage systems and agro-industry can turn good politics into better economics. It will spur demand, and also help the local political leader to encourage crony capitalism at the village level. Chief ministers like Narendra Modi, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Sheila Dikshit, Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Oommen Chandy have resorted to the good politics of inclusive growth by encouraging domestic investment in core sectors to generate employment. They have invented schemes that make good economic sense and rewarding politics. They have won repeated mandates not because they were fighting for FIIs and endorsement from the Pink papers. They had devised an agenda, which included little for the rich and more for the poor and the middle class. All these states have registered high GDP growth in which the social and infrastructure sector has made huge contributions. Even the Congress leadership has realised that it can’t allow good economics to replace good politics. The Congress dilemma would be to find a Vishnugupta who can play both Chanakya and Kautilya to prove a good politician can also be a good economist and not vice-versa.
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Sunday, September 16, 2012
Monday, September 10, 2012
PM has everything to gain and nothing to lose by taking a bold step
Surprisingly, the language of the rich and mighty and the government leaders was almost the same, as if both had confabulated together before speaking. No doubt, some of the big industrial houses stand to suffer immensely if coal block licences are cancelled. Even some senior Congress leaders are worried about the damage caused to the ruling party’s image. The party is being accused of promoting and patronising crony capitalism by granting all government contracts and natural resources to a chosen few. The damning revelations about the political nature of the beneficiaries bolster the Opposition charge that there is nothing transparent in the manner and method by which the actual beneficiaries have been selected by the Screening Committee and later endorsed by the Prime Minister.
The strategy of one step backward and two steps forward ensures victory for a politician in the long run. But both the Prime Minister and the Congress party have been compelled by its foes to move a step forward to take many steps backwards later. While the combined Opposition was hauling the Prime Minister over the coals on the coal scam, even the most articulate Cabinet ministers were found wanting in offering a credible defence to the beleaguered Manmohan Singh. Never before has he been so majestically isolated as he was during the most vicious and poisonous personal tirade against him ever. For the first time, none of the leaders from UPA’s allies spoke or defended him as they would in the past. Even his most vocal and visible supporters like Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar have decided to keep silent and watch from the fences, the mauling of Manmohan. The Prime Minister’s silence is his only paralytic political companion. His sullen face reflects his agony. The man, once adored for wisdom and integrity, is being charged with presiding over India’s most corrupt government. Manmohan was UPA’s only credible and productive asset during the 2009 elections. He is now seen as a liability. So far, his past has been his most lethal weapon. Now his present is seen as the most serious threat to his and the Congress party’s future.
According to the Prime Minister’s advisers, the fault for the fall lies at the doorstep of the party, and not with him. For example, Manmohan appears to be willing to take the Opposition head on by cancelling, or putting in abeyance, the allotment of coal blocks. But the majority of ministers and Congress leaders are against it. They feel that it would amount to admitting to an error. It, however, defies all political logic and even expediency to sacrifice the image and the institution of the Prime Minister for the sake of protecting the financial interests of a few corporate houses. Those opposed to the idea of cancellation argue that such an extreme step would lead to disastrous economic consequences. They have conveniently forgotten that over 90 per cent of the mines remain unmined, with the coal still lying in the womb of Mother Earth. Moreover, such a move would also bring the Opposition-ruled states under judicial scrutiny and expose some BJP leaders. Above all, the question amounts to what is cheaper—the Prime Minister’s prestige or the notional loss, which a few companies would have to bear. The Congress made similar mistakes earlier when the Bofors scandal hit the headlines in the 1980s, and later last year when it refused to cancel 2G licences. Finally, the courts had to intervene and the Congress and its allies suffered politically. But the buck stops at the desk of the Prime Minister, who has everything to gain and nothing to lose by taking a bold stand as he did during the Indo-US civil nuclear deal in 2008. Not only did Manmohan win the election, he was hailed as the Prime Minister with a mission and clean methods. Does he realise that since Independence, none of his predecessors have kept the coal portfolio with themselves for as long a time as he had. Perhaps they were aware of how much the soot would soil their image.
With his inaction, he is taking the risk of joining the club of two former prime ministers—Rajiv Gandhi and P V Narsimha Rao—who started well and laid the foundations of modern India, but went down facing charges of leading tainted governments. Corporate India forgot them. If Manmohan fails, it will not give him even a footnote in its annual reports.
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