Tuesday, August 27, 2013

SPECIAL INTERVIEW: UPA has failed the country: Jaitley

Special interview

UPA has failed the country: Jaitley

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Shri Arun Jaitley, has behind him an illustrious career both as a leader of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and as a leading national figure of BJP.  He was also President of the Delhi University Students' Union. He distinguished himself as the Law Minister in Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee's NDA government. He has also served the BJP as its general secretary and party spokesperson. His sharp and apt comments and intellectual prowess leaves his political opponents dumbfounded.  Amba Charan Vashishth interviewed him in the first week of August at his residence in New Delhi. The recent Pak intrusion into Indian side of Line of Control killing five of our brave soldiers has given Shri Jaitley's comment that "the UPA government has failed the country"  more substance and credence. Shri Jaitley freely answered wide-range of questions on various issues. Excerpts:

How does the political scenario in the country look to you at the moment?
There is an atmosphere of cynicism, anger, disgust in the country. People are extremely upset and angry. Their anguish is on account of deteriorating economic scenario in the country. The state of governance is extremely poor. Investment has almost stopped. Rupee has been devalued. Indian economy is becoming non-competitive. The whole era of showcasing the Indian economy to rest of the world is over. There is indecisiveness in the leadership. People are feeling vacuum of leadership. The UPA has failed the country. The outgoing leadership of UPA is non-inspirational. Those whom they are projecting as incoming leadership has not been able to establish his credentials. Corruption has further disillusioned people. Linking national security issues to vote bank politics rather than security has further caused concern in the country. The result of all these factors is that people are looking for change. People are looking for a hope.  In this situation people look towards BJP. They look at us with a huge sense of hope. They have one grievance with the BJP. The people of this country are willing to bring about a change. They want BJP to be ready to lead the change. And I only hope we are able to qualify for that aspiration of the people.
How far has the UPA decision to carve out Telangana changed the political and electoral scene in Andhra Pradesh?
See, the two political parties genuinely committed to Telangana are TRS and BJP. The UPA never wanted to create Telangana. In fact the Justice Shrikrishna report was a half-hearted effort merely intended to delay the process of Telangana.  Today their allies are marginalized in both coastal Andhra ,Rayalaseema and also in Telangana. The UPA has created Telangana not out of ideological conviction but merely because of political convenience. I only hope that they are able to walk the talk. But at the end of the day I don`t see UPA will be benefitted out of creation of Telangana because people in Telangana  know that UPA commitment to Telangana was not real. They will face a wrath in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema without much of gain in Telangana. It is a lose-lose situation for the UPA.
Congress seems determined to push through its political and electoral agenda during the monsoon session of Parliament this month. What is your assessment?
 Monsoon session of parliament is for only sixteen days. Out of these sixteen days four or five days are Fridays when private member's business is transacted. How much business they will be able to transact in all 12 days? I think Congress has consciously shortened the session because it is uncomfortable during parliament session. Therefore, there is external and internal barbados.
What do you think about the Food Security Ordinance recently promulgated?
I personally am in support of the idea of right to food. The right to livelihood can`t be in the abstract. It must inherently feed every stomach. I am one of those who genuinely feel committed to the fact of state subsidising food at least to the weaker sections. Now this extent of reach of the food, the quantum and quantity of the food to be given must be nutritious. It must reach the largest number of the people and the distribution network government is able to create must be effective. The earlier PDS has shown a lot of leakages and food going back into the system through the black market. And I only hope that does not happen because of the infrastructure for distribution has not been effectively created.
Do you think that Ordinance is going to have any impact in the coming State assembly and 2014 Lok Sabha elections?
I think it is for political purposes. But how much political advantage they will get, they will try and do that best. But I have my serious doubts. Ultimately it is the state governments which already have effective food programmes.  Some BJP ruled States already have effective PDS programme which is much better than Food Security Ordinance.
Elections to State assemblies in four important States of Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are going to be held in the last quarter of this year. What are your expectations for BJP?
The main political advantage is that the political environment in this country is in our favour. In battle for leadership, we are way ahead of them. The electoral agenda of issues is loaded against them. I, therefore, think we have a good chance for winning all the four States. If we miss out any one State, it will not be their politics, probably will be our internal problems.
It is BJP's prerogative to announce its prime ministerial candidate at what time. But media and certain opposition groups have raised a controversy on some probable names. But the same media is silent on demanding Congress to announce its prime ministerial candidate. How do you see the situation?
See I tell you, we have so far appointed Shri Narinder Modi as Chairman of Election Campaign Committee. Obviously, Narendra Bhai’s name creates a lot of buzz and news as far as media is concerned and, therefore, there is a lot of excitement. There are groups and opinion against him. There is a very large and overwhelming opinion in his favour. In fact, he has, to a great extent, captured the imagination and support of the BJP cadres and of the political constituency that supports the BJP. It is, however, upto the national party through its Parliamentary Board to announce the name and finallise it at the appropriate time. But I am convinced that in the battle for leadership we are way ahead. The Congress has nobody to match the personality of some of our leaders. That is why they are trying to duck the leadership fight. Hence, you have statements coming from Congress leaders saying they may not even declare their leader.
UPA government and PMO recently refused to divulge information under RTI about Robert Vadra on the excuse of confidentiality. Earlier, it refused information about Mrs. Sonia Gandhi's treatment abroad at public expense. Now PMO has refused to share with people the information about the utilization of funds collected from people in the Prime Minister's Relief Fund. On the one hand, Congress claims credit for having given people the RTI and on the other, it is denying information to people. What does it mean?
You see, they want to claim the credit for bringing the Right to Information Act but they also want to effectively deprive by using the exception. On matter of corruption and on matters of use and misuse of public funds, there cannot be ground of confidentiality.
How satisfied are you with the pace of investigation into the 2G spectrum, Coalgate, Railgate and other scams?
I am not satisfied as far as 2G case is concerned. The matter is pending in the court but the JPC which was to come out with its findings is being prevented by UPA members from coming to an effective findings. In Coalgate, UPA government was caught red-handed when its minister was trying to interfere with the preparation of CBI status report which was to be submitted to the Supreme Court. They tried to doctor that report. The Railgate comes to me as the bolt from the blue where minister and his family members are involved in the matter of auctioning important positions in the Railways and, at the same time, you find those who took the decision instead of being an accused have been made prime witnesses.
In the Isharat Jahan case, Congress government has put CBI and IB at daggers against each other. How do you see the situation?
Well, the Ishrat Jahan case was an IB operation. Now the facts are in public domain. It is clear now. You can’t uncover the functioning of the security agencies of India. Security agencies always function under a cover. Now when you uncover them and ask police investigation to investigate their functioning, you are hurting national security. That is what the UPA government is doing.
Recently, a group of MPs petitioned the US President not to grant visa to Shri Narendra Modi. How do you see the development?
It is highly improper that MPs decided to petition the US President. My personal advice to Shri Narinder Modi would be that he should not apply for US visa. Since 2005 he has actually not applied for it. The refusal of US to give him a visa is not the failure of the BJP or of Narinder Modi; it is failure of India’s foreign policy where this UPA government is mute spectator to the fact that the top elected leader in Indian democracy can be denied a visa and Government of India becomes a mute spectator.
How strong and united is BJP to face the challenge of ensuing State assembly and Lok Sabha elections next year?
We are united and determined. We lost two elections. We can’t afford to lose a third and I am sure there is great enthusiasm in our cadres also.               ***

Monday, August 26, 2013

Launching Food Security programme amounts to an affront to Parliament & Constitution

Launching Food Security programme amounts to an affront to Parliament & Constitution

On August 7, UPA government withdrew in Parliament the Food Security Ordinance promulgated on July 5 and introduced the Food Security Bill to replace the same.

Till August 26 the two Houses of Parliament had not been able to find time to give a consideration to the Bill and finally put their seal of approval. As things stand, nobody is sure whether the Bill, in its present form, will formally get Parliament's approval.

Certain political parties and groups have vented out their intention to introduce certain amendments to the Congress-led UPA's Bill. As the UPA does not enjoy a clear-cut majority to get the Bill through in its present form, it has to adopt a policy of give-and-take. In all probability, after the Parliament's approval the Bill may not exactly be the same as introduced on August 7. The Bill will become a law only the moment it gets the accent of the President of India after the same has been passed by both the Houses of Parliament.

In other words, neither the Food Security Ordinance promulgated on July 5 already withdrawn in Parliament nor the Food Security Bill introduced in Parliament on August 7 have the stamp of approval of Parliament and, therefore, are not laws which can be legally enforced by any government.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the Food Security Bill has electoral and political overtones and designs. Proposed to be got through at the fag end of the present tenure of Parliament and Congress-led UPA government, Congress had thought that the Bill will overcome all its hurdles to become a law and could easily be launched on former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's birthday to draw electoral mileage. For one reason or the other, this plan could not fructify as anticipated. Yet, the Congress did go ahead with launching its food security programme in terms of the provisions in the Bill on August 20 in the five Congress-ruled States of Delhi, Himachal and Haryana in the north and Kerala and Karnataka in the south. It has given ample indication of its intentions to draw electoral mileage in the coming State assembly and Parliament elections in 2014.

As per provisions of the Constitution, no government can utilize public funds without the approval of Parliament. That is why when elections are announced and a regular budget cannot be presented, the Parliament approves a vote on account authorizing the government to meet the day-to-day financial requirements in terms of pay of the establishment and routine expenditure on the ongoing services for a period of two or four months. The Food Security Bill proposes an annual subsidy of `1,24,724 crore for the year 2013-2014. Parliament has not sanctioned this amount so far.

Further, as a part of its media blitzkrieg Congress has also started claiming that "HUNGER WILL BE HISTORY".

Whatever may be the Congress party's electoral compulsions, the fact remains that by hurriedly implementing food security programme in terms of the Food Security Bill tabled by the Government on August 7 in Parliament it has only taken Parliament for granted which amounts to be an affront to the word and spirit of the Constitution.                                                                                           ***

Monday, August 5, 2013

ANALYSIS Congress hallucinations in Telangana & AP

Congress hallucinations in Telangana & AP

Congress may be, once again, trying its hand at kidding, as it normally does, the people of the country and Andhra Pradesh, as its general secretary in-charge of party's Andhra Affairs Digvijay Singh did,  by denying that "electoral considerations were behind the decision" to carve out a new State of Telengana. "Political expediency cannot be a reason for such a path-breaking decision; this has nothing to do with the elections", Singh added.  But he stood contradicted and real intentions of Congress exposed by none other than the Congress President Mrs.  Sonia Gandhi herself when she managed "to douse the fires" of coastal Andhra and Rayalseema urging them "to serve the overall interests of the party".

That the decision has been totally motivated with an eye on elections due simultaneously for State assembly and Parliament in April-May 2014 is proved by the fact that Congress failed to honour its commitment to create Telangana in its 2004 election manifesto and repeated in 2009. It felt encouraged to ignore the people of Telangana after Congress under late YSR Reddy was returned to power again with an overwhelming majority in State assembly and won 33 out of 42 seats to Parliament. That is the reason why it went back on Congress Home Minister's announcement on December 10, 2009 that government will start the process of formation of a new State of Telangana out of Andhra Pradesh. It was all politics.

If Congress was so honest in implementing its solemn pledge to the people of Andhra and Telangana why did it wait for about four more years during which period more numerous precious lives were lost, hundreds of people injured and property worth hundreds of crores destroyed? Therefore, it goes without saying that the decision to stage a U turn to the announcement by a home minister was as much political with electoral overtones as it is the decision now to carve out Telangana.

The decision was triggered by reports of a likely complete wipe out of Congress party, both in the State and Parliament elections. It now hopes to marginalize its arch rival Jagan Reddy's YSR Congress, Telugu Desam Party, and BJP. It hopes that Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) will merge with it, as had its President K. Chandrashekhar Rao earlier promised if Telangana was formed. It hopes to repeat a 2009 in Andhra and Telangana. Congress is planning to engineer defections in TRS if Rao doesn't fall in line.

In 2002 the then BJP-led NDA of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee created three States of Chhattisgarh (out of Madhya Pradesh), Jharkhand (out of Bihar) and Uttranchal (out of UP)– later rechristened Uttarakhand.  Congress  led by Ajit Jogi  in the new State of Chhattisgarh, BJP led by Babulal Marandi in Jharkhand and  BJP led by Nityanand Swami in Uttaranchal formed the first governments in the new States. But after the next assembly elections, Congress lost and BJP formed government in Chhattisgarh more because of Ajit Jogi's unpopularity, BJP lost in Uttranchal and managed to scrape through a hung verdict to form an alliance government.

Therefore, formation of Teleangana is no guarantee of a Congress return to power. It is a victory of the relentless struggle of the people at a great sacrifice of innocent lives and property. Congress played no constructive role. It is no favour it has bestowed on Telangana people.

Needless to recall that in a similar fashion in 1966 the Congress Working Committee with a similar wish had decided to create a Punjabi-speaking and a Hindi-speaking State of Haryana out of the existing Punjab. But in elections held next year in March Congress lost to pave the way for the first-ever non-Congress alliance government led by Justice (Retd.) Gurnam Singh of Akali Dal. In Haryana Congress did win but lost power in less than a month.

To hope for washing out its sins of corruption, incompetence, performance deficit, anti-incumbency both in AP and Telangana and at the Centre is a day-dream. It is akin to the British then hallucinating to defeat Congress in elections on the claim it that was the British who had granted freedom to the nation.                                                                                       ***

Saturday, August 3, 2013

FOOD SECURITY A Congress programme at public cost?

 A Congress programme at public cost?

In India the "government of the people, by the people and for the people" is run by a political party or an alliance which commands majority in the House of the People (Lok Sabha). The council of ministers headed by the prime minister, under the Constitution, is collectively responsible to the House. Same is the story in States. Although the destiny of the Government of India is steered by a political party or an alliance of parties commanding majority, yet the government is for all – as much for the ruling party as much for the opposition; as much for those who voted for it as much for those who didn't. The government in power cannot discriminate between its supporters and its opponents and, above all, on grounds of religion, caste, sex and region.
Although the Food Security Bill may have been conceived by the National Advisory Council or the Congress and adopted by the Government of India, yet the fact remains that once it has been promulgated by the President of India on the recommendation it becomes a public property; it is for all without discrimination as per its provisions.
According to government version the food security guaranteed under the Bill will cost the public exchequer `1.25 lakh crores per year.
Though the Bill has not as yet been passed by Parliament, yet the Government has announced that initially it will be launched on August 20 this year – the birth anniversary of former Congress leader who was also a prime minister for five years– in five Congress ruled States all of which are going to the polls shortly. 
All this gives electoral overtones to the whole exercise. It appears as if it is not a programme of the Government of India which will bear the cost of its implementation from public exchequer but a Congress Party programme run on party funds. Why are non-Congress ruled States being, initially, excluded from extending the benefit of the Bill remains unexplained. That turns it not a national programme but a Congress Party programme to further its electoral fortunes at public cost.

Should the President of India who is the guardian of the word and spirit of the Constitution not take note of this flagrant violation for narrow political and electoral cause?

The Genius in late Harshad Mehta

The Genius in late Harshad Mehta

The late Harshad Mehta, notorious for the securities scam of 90s, may have done much wrong or right, that is a matter of discussion, but he certainly was a brainy man with a sharp intellect and presence of mind to act and react. That is why as a person who started his career as a petty clerk drawing a salary of `500 could make so much fortune.

I recall his performance in a programme for young boys relayed live by a TV channel. A boy from the audience stood up and said, "Uncle, you are a great financial wizard. You are known to multiply money. I give you `100 and you make it `200?"

Mehta smiled and said, "Yes, but I don't work for free. I seek my own share. Can you give me 50%?"

"Yes", sportingly replied the boy.

He took the `100 note from the boy and then returned the same back to him. I have made 200 and this is your share; I have retained my share of 100".

Everybody present clapped.                                                                         ***