Millennium Post

‘You can’t upset the applecart every week’

With the current fluid political situation, how do you think things would unfold for the government?

I have a fairly strong feeling that our economic reforms steps would hold and their positive side would be felt in the next six months or so. I am not saying that within six months all these things will be completed because these are very big steps, but public sentiment will pick it up as something that is happening. It’s important that we get the time to impact public sentiment. The immediate people who are affected on the positive side, their sentiments would change within a week’s time but they are not our voters. It is our voters whose sentiments need to be secured. They must be able to understand that it’s about them and not a handful of people who will do the investments. The Opposition is saying this is for the rich and not for the poor, but the fact that actually it is for the middle class and poor, will become apparent in the next six months. If we get the time we will be able to convince the country. There is no inherent hostility but obviously people can be misled into believing that it’s not good. The Opposition is just assuming that people are completely ignorant about basic economics and I don’t think that’s correct.

What are the plans of the party to take FDI to the masses?

After the PM’s address on the importance of FDI, we will pan it out to the country. Ministers will also do rounds, the party will take it up and explain its advantages to the common man.

Why haven’t we heard Rahul Gandhi speak on any of the burning issues like FDI in retail, diesel price hike and also cap on LPG cylinders?

Of course he has spoken on them. In fact, he was the first to speak on the FDI issue during the Uttar Pradesh elections. He told the farmers that people who oppose FDI are trying to stultify their growth. He believes there is an assignment for people in government and party and they should follow that. There should not be a freewheeling, ‘I know everything and will speak on everything’ approach to politics. He is very scientific and disciplined. In his interfaces he talks about these issues. He is also very intense and well-informed. But fielding the press all the time on a range of issues, within the assignment structure he feels its best left to those people who have that assignment which also includes the prime minister and the Congress president. He has got very well-researched and clear views on issues. At an appropriate stage and time he will speak more extensively, right now he sticks to ‘the assignment approach.’

What about the relationship with TMC now?

It is an open question. It shouldn’t sour, I hope it doesn’t sour. I hope that we can continue to cooperate in areas they don’t have major issues. Mamata Banerjee has been a long term Congress associate. I don’t think we should consider this as an end. I hope the relationship will continue.

Is the government in a minority on the FDI issue and does it have  the numbers to sail through?

It’s difficult to do the sums, but ostensibly it seems visibly that more people oppose it than support it. I am not sure that if there is a head count then there would not be people who would not abstain. Also I  don’t think you can’t fit everything into a pattern. Banerjee was not involved in all India
bharat bandh
against FDI but she is the one talking most strongly against it. Some people will oppose, some support, some adjust, abstain, negotiate and others will accommodate. It’s too early to take a final call.  As for  the issue of being in a minority, I must say that we have  a working majority in parliament and there is no harm in being careful but I don’t think there is reason for us to panic or lose sleep over this but we have to keep up our dialogue contact.

After TMC pulling out, what is the government’s strategy for survival?

As far as I know our leadership is in touch with everyone through different channels obviously whatever decisions we are taking must be based on the assessment on each party is seemingly opposed to some these measures  is prepared to go. Having factored all that in, I think we have a good chance of continuing with our reform process and also continuing in the government. So far so good, let’s see what happens beyond this.

Be it the Indo-US deal and now the FDI issue, both have been passed by the government while being in a minority after important allies pulled out, was it morally and legally correct in interest of parliamentary democracy to do so?

Not everything needs to go to parliament. You can have a huge disagreement on something which not necessarily might be a populist measures, so long it’s not made into an issue of parliamentary majority. Not everyone will agree with you as there are differences. There are differences even within a government as well. You are supposed to go up to a point but say that then so far and no further, both in terms of retreating and advancing. You have to have a workable band of options because you can’t upset the applecart every week, every month or every year. I know that governments do not complete five years but there should be a very good reason for that to happen. Frankly, I don’t feel there is a strong enough reason for them to go to the extreme to pull down the government. It is a good thing that they register their protest and flag what their respective positions are, for which we have accommodated them for the last two years. We should have done this two years ago, but we did feel we owed it to all the people working with us so we should try and take them on board as much as possible, now that didn’t happen and couldn’t happen. So we had to decide what would be the last possible moment that we could get back on the track of reforms. This was the time and that is why the prime minister Manmohan Singh decided to introduce those reforms.
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