Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s proposal about setting up an all-women bank -- first suggested in this year’s budget -- received much acclaim.
The proposed bank will lend mostly to women and women- run businesses, support women self-help groups and women's livelihood, Chidambaram had said.
But Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh has stolen some of the finance minister’s thunder by pointing out that the Andhra Pradesh government has already set up a financial institution to help women.
In a letter to Chidambaram, Ramesh suggested that the finance minister could take some pointers from the Andhra model while establishing an exclusive bank for women.
Ramesh is an elected member of the Rajya Sabha from Andhra Pradesh.
Interestingly, such statements by Ramesh are nothing new.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is finding it difficult to bring a rapprochement between Chidambaram and Ramesh on fiscal or monetary policies. Whether it is during Union Cabinet meetings or while formulating financial policies, Ramesh always come up with a retort to counter Chidambaram.
According to insiders, Ramesh has the support of Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi's National Advisory Council over his emphasis on self-help groups and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
The latest controversy once again brings up the differences between Chidambaram and Ramesh.
Ramesh has suggested that the proposed women’s bank can incorporate certain salient points from the model followed by the Andhra Pradesh government.
Ramesh states, “You may be aware that the Andhra Pradesh government was the first government to set up a separate and dedicated financial institution for the support of women self help groups in Andhra Pradesh. I attach a detailed note on this institution which may be useful in the context of your proposal to set up a national women’s bank The new bank must link up and also support institutions like Sthree Nidhi".