Parliamentary Affairs MOS Harish Rawat tells Brijesh Pandey that the government is not shying away from discussing issues
Who is responsible for the impasse in Parliament?
One thing is clear; political considerations are taking the place of issue-based considerations. I can understand the concern of political parties about price rise. The government is not shying away from any discussion. It is also natural on part of the Opposition parties to press for discussions under the rule that calls for the adjournment of the House. We said this is not an issue of recent occurrence, this cannot be discussed under that rule and you can raise and discuss it under Rule 193. After some hesitation, they agreed. Then the BJP wanted the black money issue to be discussed under adjournment motion. We agreed. Meanwhile, the recommendation on the FDI issue was pending. It is an executive decision. At the first available opportunity, the minister concerned made a statement in both Houses, explaining why FDI is being allowed in retail and about its basic features. The BJP started complaining that they were not consulted. It isn’t necessary to consult the Opposition on everything. The ministry has already discussed this with the stakeholders. It has consulted the states as well.
So how does the government plan to take the Opposition parties on board?
The BJP has been catering to business cartels and feels that FDI will hurt its core support. For Left parties, if China adopts a model, it turns out to be a revolutionary model, but if we go for the same reforms, which will boost our industry, then we are wrong. In the past few years, many malls have come up. Organised sector is only 8-10 percent of the retail sector. Rest is in the unorganised sector. It will take Wal-Mart and others 200 years to have a monopoly in the industry. Our retail sector is very huge. It requires a lot of reforms, it requires help from all corners.
The Opposition has also alleged that the government was feeling jittery over the black money issue and that is why it introduced FDI in retail to divert attention.
So why are they falling into the trap of the government? They are intelligent enough. Why are they not exposing us? Who is preventing them from raising the black money issue? They should introduce a motion. We have agreed for an adjournment motion. They can discuss it. They can tell the nation that we have not done anything to bring back black money. We will place our defence in Parliament. Why are they afraid to discuss it? It is only a political gimmick because Assembly elections are due in five states.
Parliament hasn’t been able to function in the past 2-3 sessions because of the frequent logjam. So much money and precious time have been lost. How is the government planning to address the concerns of the Opposition?
We appreciate their concerns. We are ready to discuss everything. There is a competition going on in the BJP as to who will be the prime ministerial candidate. LK Advani’s rath yatra exposed the internal dynamics of the party. His party was opposed to the yatra and then he was forced to go to the RSS for help. Narendra Modi has made it implicitly clear that now it’s his turn to take over the mantle. Sushma Swaraj and Yashwant Sinha are also in the race. This internal bickering has resulted in the disruption of Parliament.
There is a similar kind of tussle going on in the Left parties. They want their presence to be felt in New Delhi because they have been marginalised in West Bengal and Kerala. They are making Parliament pay for their political compulsions. In Uttar Pradesh, both the SP and BSP don’t want to be seen with the Congress because under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, we are giving them a tough time. They are venting their anger at Parliament. But despite all this, I’m hopeful that we will find a way out of the mess.
Brijesh Pandey is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.