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Government has vitiated political atmosphere, Modi an autocrat: Jairam Ramesh


By Prashant Sood

New Delhi: 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.

jairam_ramesh_bigRamesh 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.


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Quota Reservation Bill Moved in Rajya Sabha

The Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill was passed after a division with 323 members voting in its favour and three against in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday


The Rajya Sabha was adjourned till afternoon following protests by opposition members amidst a demand that the Constitution bill providing for upper castes reservation be sent to a Select Committee for detailed consideration even as the government sought to push ahead with its passage on the last day of the winter session on Wednesday.

With Lok Sabha having passed the Constitution (124th Amendment) bill providing for 10 per cent reservation for the economically weaker sections among the general category in government service and higher educational institutions, Social Justice Minister Thawarchand Gehlot moved it for consideration in the upper House.

CPI member D. Raja, who objected to the consideration of the bill, demanded that it be sent to a Select Committee and the House should first take a decision on it.

Madhusudhan Mistry of Congress said the Bill was not complete and told the government that it cannot have both introduction and voting on the same day. He asked what was the urgency in the passage of the Bill.

Members were also protesting against the “unilateral” extension of the session till Wednesday saying it was done without consulting the opposition. They said the Chair did not announce a day’s extension in the working days of the House nor did it seek the members’ consent.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel said the Congress was raising technical issues to stall the Bill. “If you openly oppose the Bill, it is different. Otherwise, let’s have a discussion on it as it has already been introduced,” he said.

Quota reservation bill moved in Rajya Sabha.

Moving the Bill, Gehlot said the Constitution does not allow reservation on economic basis and due to that poor people in general category miss out on opportunities.

“There was a complaint by poor of the general category that they could not avail of government benefits. The decision has been taken after much consideration. This bill will uplift the poor,” he said.

He appealed to the members to pass the bill unanimously. This was followed by the start of the debate by BJP member Prabhat Jha. But as shouting and uproar continued, Deputy Chairman Harivansh adjourned the House till 2 p.m.

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The Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill was passed after a division with 323 members voting in its favour and three against in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day too, the House was adjourned once up to noon after protests by members on the “unilateral” extension. (IANS)