Saturday, July 14, 2012

Moily makes veiled attack on Salman, Chidambaram(Interview)

‘Cong leaders should talk responsibly’


Senior Congress leader and Union corporate affairs minister Mr M Veerappa Moily is known to speak his mind. These days, the minister is busy charting out a roadmap to ensure ethical functioning of the Indian corporate sector. Mr Moily shared with
NIRENDRA DEV his thoughts on the state of the Indian economy, the crisis in the Karnataka BJP and the perceived policy paralysis and governance deficit afflicting the Congress-led UPA government

Let us start with Karnataka, your home state. How do you perceive the recent change of guard?

It’s no change of guard. It’s just a case of surrender before the whims and fancies of one leader ~ BS Yeddyurappa. The BJP has revealed that it has the weakest leadership at the central level. It has also endorsed the politics of corruption and casteism. The infighting in the BJP has now come out in the open.

But as a Congressman, it should suit your party…

That is another chapter. But it does not suit the state of Karnataka. There is drought, people are suffering and there is governance deficit. Karnataka has never seen such a dark period in its history.

Coming to your phrase ‘governance deficit’, that’s how people describe what the UPA regime has to offer. There is a widespread perception that the Congress-led UPA II regime is gripped by policy paralysis and governance deficit.
That is not true. Ours has been a very focused approach towards inclusive growth catering to all sections of people and that addresses rural employment, health care, among other things. Such inclusive growth is not addressed in Western countries. In our case, for all important government policies in the past eight years, Congress president Sonia Gandhi personally gave specific directions, especially for flagship schemes such as MGNREGA other than the food security and RTI Acts. So where is the question of the Congress lacking in direction?

However, ever since the Anna Hazare movement was launched, the Congress and the government seem to have lost their way. What has really gone wrong with the Manmohan Singh government? Were the movements spearheaded by Mr Anna Hazare and Ramdev mishandled?

Firstly, let us not go back into the past. There is no truth in your statement that the Congress has lost its way. If you are referring to the Time magazine report, I should say, Dr Manmohan Singh has led the government and the country well all these years. The periodical has only deviated from objectivity as it got swayed by the malicious environment created by BJP and a section of civil society. Any objective analysis of the Indian economy would reflect that the country has registered an average GDP growth of around 7.7 per cent in the last 10 years. Indian share in global exports has doubled from 0.7 per cent to 1.5 per cent. Literacy rate has increased. The country has a burgeoning middle class and the people’s purchasing power has increased too.

What about the latest ‘foot-in-mouth’ disease syndrome in Congress affecting all from Mr Salman Khurshid to Mr P Chidamabaram?
This (foot-in-mouth) is not my phrase, but the Congress is not given to this culture. We are expected to be disciplined and remember that the party’s prestige and image is of utmost importance. Without taking any names, I should say leaders should appreciate that everything has some repercussions (for the party). Therefore, leaders should talk responsibly and always keep the party’s image in mind.

Are you disturbed by such a trend? How much of this ‘loose talk’ do you think had cost the party in the UP polls?

For UP election results, there were several factors. Yes, it was one of them.

After the Prime Minister took over the finance portfolio, some of his steps such as review of taxation norms give the impression that there might have been a disconnect between Dr Manmohan Singh and Mr Pranab Mukherjee. Your opinion.

There is no disconnect. Any new finance minister will have his own roadmap. There is nothing wrong in it. You must also remember that in 1991, it was Dr Singh who had revived the Indian economy.

But what about the talk of policy paralysis? Dr Singh is the captain of the ship.

I agree. But there is no policy paralysis. Everyone is making a big fuss about the 6.5 per cent GDP rate. You all are missing the point that the fundamentals of our economy are very strong today. I think, it is more about perception paralysis. We have weathered a global crisis more than once. We have shown our resilience. Even in personal life, one cannot be cheerful always. A dull period comes… that does not mean the same cheerfulness will not return. Similarly, it will be erroneous to believe the Indian economy will not revive. The Prime Minister has already talked about taking important steps.

How do you think the economy can be rebooted? What should the government do in the remaining two years of its term?

We do not need any drastic policy changes. Things are on track. There may be need for some corrective steps… perhaps the Reserve Bank of India could think about reducing the interest rate.

Are you all pushing for that?

Well, RBI should go by the sentiments of bankers on this. As the corporate minister, I understand their pulse... the bankers are willing or are ready for a reduced rate of interest. Moreover, we need to improve the inflow of foreign investments. Look at big players like Vodafone. The General Anti-Avoidance Rules was formulated with honest intentions. But lobbyists launched a campaign suggesting the investment climate in India is not favourable. The Prime Minister has already spoken about these things.

Coming back to party politics, how much do you think can the Congress depend on the Rahul Gandhi factor?

The Congress has displayed a very strong and focused leadership under Sonia Gandhi. We have been pursuing party principles and manifesto sincerely. RTI is today a strong weapon in the hands of the citizens to ensure transparency in government functioning. Rahul Gandhi has increased Congress acceptability among the younger generation. The results will be seen in the long term. Rahul will emerge a stronger leader in 2014 like an Amazonian force and there will be no one from the Opposition parties to match him.

(The Statesman, July 14, 2012)

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