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The Jairam Ramesh Chat

Congress joint secretary Jairam Ramesh, widely acknowledged as one of the best and brightest in Capital City, regaled his audience with his insight and wit. And even though he had to cut short the chat and rush for one of those Congressi meetings, he's promised to be back on Election Day. Check out the transcript!

shree (Tue Jan 27 1998 6:14 IST)
Hello Everybody

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 6:15 IST)
Hello shree

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 7:49 IST)
Greetings from Delhi. I hope all you guys will vote Congress next month.

Karim Halim (Tue Jan 27 1998 7:47 IST)
Mr Jairam WhY did Ms Sonia Gandhi decide NOT to contest??

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 7:51 IST)
Karim Halim: Mrs G's decision was a personal decision. I think if she had contested she wouldn't have been available for extensive campaigning on behalf of the Congress. She is going to visit over a hundred constituencies in February.

Manish (Tue Jan 27 1998 7:41 IST)
Mr. Ramesh: Why do you change your profession quite often? Are you now comfortable as a politician?

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 7:55 IST)
Manish: Well, I haven't changed that often as you think. Basically, it has revolved around government. Also, it is important to renew oneself every once in a while with a new set of challenges. Politics is tricky and risky. I have been on the periphery for seven years but now I am in it full time. It is exciting and full of potholes. But if you want to change politics, then I believe the best course is to take the plunge. There will be ups and downs, more downs perhaps.

Hair (Tue Jan 27 1998 7:53 IST)
Hi Mr Ramesh. Sir how much financial loss will India suffer after these elections?? And is it right for the tax payers to suffer like this?

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 7:59 IST)
Hari: These elections would cost about Rs 700 crores. In a parliamentary democracy elections are the only way of establishing the will of the people. There is no point trying to cobble together unnatural alliances. Elections are expensive but they are the necessary price to be paid for keeping our democracy going. Democracy doesn't come cheap. Frequent elections should be avoided but don't forget that the verdict of 1996 was itself a fractured verdict. If the Congress had not supported the United Front government in May 1996 then elections would have had to held in July-August 1996 itself.

Manoj (Tue Jan 27 1998 7:55 IST)
Hi Mr Ramesh. Sir, what do you think will be the final outcome of this election? And more importantly WHY is Sonia Gandhi asking for the Bofors papers to be made public when SHE KNOWS THAT the papers cannot be made public as per the agreement? What is the ploy?

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:6 IST)
Manoj: It is very early to predict how the elections would turn out. There is certainly a lot of media hype on the BJP but the Congress is on the upswing. All I can say at this stage is that a decisive mandate seems unlikely. And that another coalition government might be formed. On Bofors, all that Mrs Gandhi has said is make the papers public. For almost 10 years there has been a campaign of smear and vilification. It seems to me that her request is perfectly reasonable since the newspapers have gone to town on her. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest the involvement, direct or indirect of Mr or Mrs Gandhi. In 1990 Mr V P Singh said he would make the names public in two months. But nothing happened. Names can be made public if the Indian government is really serious.

C Mitra (Tue Jan 27 1998 7:55 IST)
Mr Ramesh: What is your contribution to the Congress manifesto? Was it your baby?

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:9 IST)
C. Mitra: The manifesto was a collective effort but the Libretto on which it was prepared was mine. The ideas came from people like Dr Manmohan Singh.

Ajay (Tue Jan 27 1998 7:56 IST)
Mr Ramesh: Where do you think the reforms are heading??

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:12 IST)
Ajay: I think the reforms are headed in the right direction but they need to be speeded up considerably. We must bring privatisation on the agenda. Our opening up to the world is also a bit cautious. But there is generally a consensus on reforms. Where there is no consensus is on fiscal discipline. Most Indian politicians and intellectuals think that you can have reforms in an environment of fiscal profligacy. This is a recipe for disaster. Don't that a 14 party UF government gave a significant push to reforms. Frankly I am worried about the BJP.

Shankar (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:1 IST)
Mr Jairam: Rs 700 crores with NO GUARANTEE OF A STABLE GOVERNMENT but we all know about the dissidents and CRIMINALS Who have entered all the THREE POLITICAL FRONTS...........HOW do you justify this carnage of DEMOCRACY??

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:13 IST)
Dear Shanker: My advice to you is to do something about this carnage. Give up your security and join politics and try to make a difference.

Ram Iyer (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:1 IST)
Mr Ramesh: If you are a Congressmen will you honestly tell us about Nehru and Mrs Gandhi's economic policies. Don't you think their policies were a disaster for our country as our country did not achieve anything from nationalisation and Fabian socialism?????

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:17 IST)
Dear Ram: You and I are products of the Nehru era. Don't knock it too much. Nehru built the base,. He made mistakes, but his achievements were solid. Don't ascribe everything to Fabian socialism. Many of the policies that had been adopted in the past were historically necessary and relevant at that point of time.

Gauri (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:8 IST)

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:20 IST)
Gauri: You will have to ask Mr. Rao why he didn't make the Bofors papers public. Maybe there was pressure from some of the appellants in the Swiss courts. As far as Mrs G and Mr Q are concerned I have no knowledge of the extent of their friendship. All I can say is that the people who talk about Mrs G and Mr Q should also ask Mr ABV about the H Brothers.

Swiss Miss (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:14 IST)
Mr Jairam, Sardar Vallabhbhai was called the Bismarck of India. Do you think Sonia with her call to stay united wants to be the Garibaldi of India.

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:21 IST)
Swiss Miss: Is it Garibaldi or Garib - aldi?

Syed Ali (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:15 IST)
Rameshji: I have heard you are one of the brightest guys in Delhi. I have also read that you wrote Sonia's Bangalore speech and want to be prime minister. Good show! But as someone associated with the reforms, how can you accept the Congress criticism that the UF govt was responsible for the slowing down of the reform process? Is this not an indictment of your own role at North Block?

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:25 IST)
Dear Syed Ali: I think the Congress criticism of the UF on economic policy was that its performance didn't match its promises made in the common minimum programme. Also the Congress thinks that Mr Chidambaram cut import duties and taxes too much. I agree with Mr Chidambaram. I also agree with the Congress that the presence of the CPM slowed down the pace of reforms. But all in all I believe that the criticism of the UF by the Congress has to do more with politics than with economics.

Bidyut Ganguly (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:17 IST)
Dear Jairam: People like you can never make a difference in politics. You are bright. You are an Iyer and you are south Indian. I fear you will end up like good old Mani Shankar Aiyar.

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:27 IST)
Dear Bidyut: Time alone will tell. Politics is basically a market place for ideas and if you are able to influence ideas then you do make a difference. My friend Mani has made a difference. If it were not for him this whole business of panchayats would have died. There are no quick solutions; you have to be patient and persevere.

Anita (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:20 IST)
Jairamji: Will you justify the stance taken by the Congress high command for not giving a ticket to former prime minister, P V Narasimha Rao? After all, he was the one who gave full support to Manmohan Singh and your reforms. PLEASE COMMENT????

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:30 IST)
Dear Anita: Economic reforms are not all. I feel sorry for Mr Rao. He accomplished a lot. But he bears the Babri cross and he was indifferent to mounting corruption. He started off as a Bhismapithamaha, became Dhithirashtra in the middle and ended up as Shakuni.

S K Iyer (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:27 IST)
Who was the better FM? Dr Singh or Mr Chidambaram, and why?

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:34 IST)
S K Iyer and others: A lot of you have asked for a comparison of Mr C and Dr M. Dr M is an economist and Mr. C is an economic administrator. Dr M is basically a thinker and a conceptualiser. Mr C is a manager. Dr M is a gentle persuader. Mr C is a bull in a china shop but in a nice way. Dr M prefers consensus while Mr C is more impatient. But both complement each other. They are not mutually exclusive.

Swiss Miss (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:32 IST)
Mr Jairam, are you a doctorate in Spin?

Swiss Miss (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:33 IST)
Or better spinster? (hope not sinister)

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:36 IST)
Dear Swiss Miss: I am impressed with your persistence. If you are really a Miss my e-mail address or should I say e-female address is Let's keep in touch.

Energy (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:32 IST)
Mr Ramesh, Most intellectuals and professionals have joined the BJP. Do you intend to follow the suit, should the BJP come to power?

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:39 IST)
Energy: I rejoined the Congress when people were leaving it. My friends described me as the only rat who went into a sinking ship! NO. I'll not join the BJP. Although I can understand the fascination of the middle class intellectuals with the BJP. It reminds me of the Germany of the 1930s.

RR (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:37 IST)
What exactly are the Congress's credentials as a liberaliser ? Despite all the hype about Dr Manmohan Singh, don't you think only the BoP crisis forced traditional Congressmen (ministers) to accept IMF conditionalities? As soon as as the crisis passed, Dr Manmohan Singh was only allowed to fiddle with interest rates and the Congress went back to its usual patronage politics/economics?

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:41 IST)
Dear RR: True. Yes, initially compulsion dictated change in 1991. But soon compulsion gave way to conviction. Compulsion can start something, but only conviction can sustain it. There is a change in the mindset in India today. And this is Dr Manmohan Singh's greatest contribution.

A B Shenoy (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:41 IST)
How can you call Mr Kesri your leader? How can you genuflect to someone so obviously venal, without political morals?

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:43 IST)
Dear Mr. Shenoy: Mr Kesri is not a PLU -- that is a person like us. But don't forget that he is more representative of India than either you or me. And one thing his worse critics have not accused him of is venality. And for your information nobody genuflects to him.

S K Iyer (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:32 IST)
Mr Ramesh: Namaskaram. I do not discern a pattern or strategy how the Congress can win this election. Without disclosing strategy, would you concede that all you hope to do this time is retain the 140 seats you won in 1996?

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:46 IST)
Dear Mr Iyer: The Congress is very weak in UP and Bihar, which together account for 139 seats. But I am hopeful that there would be a substantial improvement on its 1996 tally.

Mr Jairam Ramesh (Tue Jan 27 1998 8:48 IST)
Thank You for this opportunity. Hope we can stay in touch. I enjoyed this hope you did too.

Jairam Ramesh Chat, continues