By Prashant Sood
New Delhi, Aug 25 (IANS) The country’s political atmosphere has been vitiated by the “confrontationist attitude” of the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an “autocrat” who is not making efforts to reach out to the opposition, Congress leader and former Union minister Jairam Ramesh has said.
Ramesh also slammed Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for his remarks about “indirectly elected” Rajya Sabha holding up reform proposals passed by the “directly-elected” Lok Sabha.
Asked about the perception that relations between the government and the main opposition party were marked by bitterness, Ramesh said that Modi was not making any attempt at reaching out.
“Mr. Modi is not making any attempt at reaching out. It is not in his nature. It is not in his DNA. There is no communication. His whole approach is confrontationist. His rhetoric is confrontationist. His body language is confrontationist. It does not seem to me he is interested in working with people,” Ramesh told IANS in an interview.
“He has not reached out to his own ministers, forget the Congress party. He is autocrat to the core,” the Congress leader added.
The three-week-long monsoon session of parliament that concluded Aug 13 was washed out due to the stalemate over the Congress demand for the resignation of three BJP leaders. It was also marked by personal attacks and acrimony between the leaders of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Within and outside parliament, the Congress pressed for the resignations of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje for their alleged help to former IPL chief Lalit Modi who is facing an Enforcement Directorate probe.
The party also sought the resignation of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan for the Vyapam scam.
Asked if the party was sticking to its demand for the resignation of the three BJP leaders, Ramesh asserted: “Yes. Absolutely.”
Ramesh, a former rural development minister and a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha, said the government has to take the initiative to break the logjam in parliament.
“It is not the job of opposition to create a consensus. It is the job of the government to reach out. It is the job of the opposition to meet half way. He (Modi) has to play (a more proactive role). We all know this is a Modi-driven government. The PM is the fount of all accountability,” Ramesh said.
Asked about Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar’s remarks that the political bitterness was at its worst since the 1975-77 emergency, Ramesh said: “The political atmosphere has been vitiated because of the government’s confrontationist attitude.”
Asked about the government mulling a special session of parliament to get the Goods and Services Tax Bill passed, Ramesh said he had no idea of the government’s plans.
“We have made our stand very clear on GST. We want an 18 percent ceiling, compensation for panchayats and nagar palikas, a dispute settlement mechanism and one percent additional tax to go. The government should consider our suggestions,” Ramesh said.
The GST bill is pending in the Rajya Sabha where the government lacks a majority. The Congress is the single largest party in the upper house with 68 MPs.
Asked if the Congress will allow the Rajya Sabha to function, Ramesh said the question should be put to the party’s floor managers.
Ramesh, who worked closely with Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on the previous UPA government’s Land Act, slammed Jaitley for his remarks that the time had come for a debate on to what extent an “indirectly elected” house can hold up reform proposals passed by the “directly-elected” Lok Sabha which represents the will of the people.
“I don’t understand where he gets this strange theory from. The constitution of India makes no distinction between the two except insofar as money bills are concerned,” Ramesh said.
“In the constituent assembly debates, people saw the need for an upper house. Just because they don’t have majority in the upper house does not mean you run down the upper house. Both houses are equally important and have a role to perform,” Ramesh said.
(Prashant Sood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)