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'Modi can learn much from Narasimha Rao'

September 14, 2015 17:59 IST

Jairam Ramesh, a familiar figure in Indian politics, is known for his felicity with both the spoken and written word.

After the Manmohan Singh government was voted out in May 2014, Jairam Ramesh, who served in the environment and rural development ministries, quickly wrote two books, Green Signals: Ecology, Growth and Democracy in India and Legislating for Justice: The Making of the 2013 Land Acquisition Law.

But it is his latest book, To The Brink and Back -- India's 1991 Story, that has made the most waves since it highlights the 35 days in 1991 when then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao and his finance minister Dr Manmohan Singh ushered in momentous changes in India.

At the time, Jairam Ramesh was just starting out in politics, serving as a junior official in the Rao PMO. It is clear that Jairam Ramesh holds favourable views about the Rao regime, views that may run contrary to the prevailing view within the Congress party about that era. Since the 1990s, Jairam Ramesh has had a ringside view of political developments as they unfolded, all of which surely provide him with enough material for more memoirs.

Jairam Ramesh interacted with readers on the Rediff Chat as he discussed the period that changed India's history, forever.

 

Transcript Below:

Imtiaz: Will Congress willing to strengthen inner party democracy which will ask question to its leader or allow sycophants to applaud failure leader? 

Jairam Ramesh: We ask all sorts of questions in appropriate party forums. That is how parties must function. I have never been denied an opportunity for expressing my views. The problem arises when people start public broadcasting.

YK: Congress should help present government for passing GST. In fact, GST was originally brought by the Congress. But with some amendment if it is coming let debate Congress should not support Leaders like Lalu Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Udhav Thakrey etc

Jairam Ramesh: Congress wants GST -- a Good and Simple Tax. We have suggested five amendments to the current Bill that will benefit industry and consumers. We first introduced the GST Bill in March 2011 but sadly the obstructionist attitude of Yashwant Sinha and Narendra Modi prevented us from passing that Bill.

YK: The credit goes to P V Narasimha Rao for present day liberalization He was having courage taking bold steps.

Jairam Ramesh: I agree. He was incredibly courageous in the crisis months of June, July and August 1991 as my new book reveals.

alphabet alphabet: I believe Narasimha Rao never got credit for reformist leader and incorrectly credit went to Manmohan Singh, who is no more than a babu of bureaucracy as evident from his style of functioning as PM. Manmohan Singh only could follow orders and dutifully abide Yes Sir. It was Rao doubling as industry minister, which abolished the licence raj. Your take, please.

Jairam Ramesh: Rao-Singh was a jugalbandi. Rao couldnt have done much without Manmohan Singh and Manmohan Singh couldn't have pushed ahead without Rao. Political skills of Rao combined very well with economic expertise of Manmohan Singh. 

Anup Kumar: Sir, why is that the Congress party's only issue is for the welfare of the farmers. Rest issues are not a priority.

Jairam Ramesh: We certainly are not a one-issue party. We take up many issues but right now the concerns of farmers are paramount because there is great agrarian distress

Kesavan Kandadai: Hello sir, why was PVNR (Narasimha Rao) disowned by the Congress? Why was his dead body not allowed in your HQ? Why was he not cremated at Raj Ghat? Why is he not given Bharat Ratna? Why was he not cited in your 125 yrs celebration? Common Indians own PVNR and his achievements in our hearts & minds. We own his legacy, literary genius, politics and vision. Congress can go to HELL!

Jairam Ramesh: I don’t think Rao was disowned in any way. He was a Congress chief minister and a Congress prime minister with a distinguished record of public service of almost half a century. He had his pluses and his minuses like any other leader. 

bulusu v-k-sanyasi-rao: He (Rao) is the best PM India had. Modi can learn from him that without talking tooooooooooo much how to deliver.

Jairam Ramesh: I agree. Modi can learn much from Narasimha Rao and how he created political consensus for economic reforms with the assistance of Manmohan Singh.

Vikash Ranjan Jha: People like you are valuable to the country, but I feel you are on wrong side, you are like Karna in Mahabharata.

Jairam Ramesh: hahaha... karna is one of my favourite characters.

Pranjal Dongaonkar: Why is the Congrees not attacking BJP over continuous heavy shelling at Border & MP Scam?

Jairam Ramesh: We have been doing so all the time. Our spokespersons have taken up these issues aggressively. They have been raised in Parliament as well

rajiv pisharoti: Are you satisfied with Congress attitude towards Narasimha Rao?

Jairam Ramesh: Mr Rao gets credit for economic reforms. But unfortunately his handing of the Ayodhya issue that led to the unfortunate events of december 6, 1991 led many to distance themselves from him.

I SPY: Dear Sir, Good Morning! What do you do to keep off from worrying about the various issues you face in your daily life? These may be due to various political issues, allegations and personal issue. How do you, sir, balance all these?

Jairam Ramesh: Listen to music. Do reading. Take a walk, develop a sense of detachment.

narayana b: PVNR did with minority government what RG could not with more than 2/3 majority. Why? Most importantly he understood that the so-called mixed economy influenced by socialism has not yielded results, which RG could not get looking at Europe say England and Germany. Lesson for Indian citizens is choose leadership not hereditary lineage.

Jairam Ramesh: The economic crisis of 1991 spurred PVNR into action. He came to economic reforms initially out of compulsion, but continued them out of conviction thereafter.

john rajiah: If you put it in one word, what is the important decision of Mr Rao, which had made the turn around?

Jairam Ramesh: The appointment of Dr Manmohan Singh as finance minister on June 21, 1991.

Aruna N: [SKB] Hi Ramesh Gaaru, PV is magnificent not only the 2 months period as you said. PV is magnificent throughout his political life. He did great job as A P minister and CM also. PV is very innovative and crafty in drafting the legislature bills. Please read his entire political life and tell people of India about his great works done for the country.

Jairam Ramesh: My book is not meant to be a comprehensive biography; it deals with the first three months of his prime ministerial tenure when i was an insider and so could provide an authentic eye-witness account

Arun Mittal: Hello sir, I am sure that this government will fall sooner or later under its own weight, more so when the Saffron peer group is piggybacking them. Then why can't the Congress let the GST get passed with co-operation. That will also help Congress later when later it takes on the reigns of the Govt in due course.

Jairam Ramesh: I have answered this question. We want GST. We have suggested some important amendments that will benefit industry, trade and consumers. We hope that the government will agree to these changes.

imtiaz: What is successive policy? Will Mr Gandhi take the responsibility of leadership or will he remain unwilling and undecided to take leadership responsibility and keep us on tenterhooks?

Jairam Ramesh: He will take over the top job in the next few months. That is my reading.

Venkat Acharya: Sir, u were Rajya sabha MP from undivided AP. Shri MMS promised to grant special status to AP for 5 years to tide over the fall in the revenue on RS floor. You were part of RS then. Why the granting of special status not being made part of AP Rorganisation act? Congress party is to be blamed for this and present govt appears to have backtracked.

Jairam Ramesh: Special category status is an executive decision. Vajpayee extended special category status to Uttarakhand in 2002 -- two years after it was carved out of UP. BJP agreed to special category status announcement in Rajya Sabha on February 20, 2014 but subsequently went back on the commitment.

Arvind Irani: In Bollywood, bad actors are rejected even if they come from a filmi family. Why don't we have that option in politics?

Jairam Ramesh: you have that -- you can always reject people in elections. Remember, even the mighty Indira Gandhi was humbled in 1977.

anand bhosle: Sir Please answer why Congress is not supporting GST Bill

Jairam Ramesh: We are supporting GST but want a better GST Bill. 

A T: Dear Sir, what should the Congress as a party to come back to power in the Centre in 2019

Jairam Ramesh: Go to the people with humility and work amongst them with sincerity and conviction

Krishnamachary Prathapuram: Hello Jairamji, Do you repent for separating AP into Telangana and AP, as you have lost at both the places?

Jairam Ramesh: The demand for Telangana was a long-standing one.

Shyam Sharma: Why are you not changing your anti-Hindu image?

Jairam Ramesh: This is a canard. We are against prejudice and bigotry of any kind.

anil patel: Politics... its crap

Jairam Ramesh: it is what keeps democracy going. The noise of politics is the music of democracy

carlos-carlos: In your opinion, did people in the governmen in 1991 onwards, apart from Manmohan Singh, fully understand the major economic reforms?

Jairam Ramesh

Gradually they came to appreciate why economic reforms were necessary. these reforms have transformed the country over the past 25 years and all political parties have embraced them

anand bhosle: Sir why are you stopping GST?

Jairam Ramesh: Have answered multiple times. We want GST but this GST Bill is flawed

amit agarwal: Dear Sir, I strongly feel that the present NDA govt is not focusing on R&D in Science... and promoting only trading from foreign companies... which in long term will prove fatal for already undeveloped country... Even then Congress is not opposing or highlighting that issue... Why?

Jairam Ramesh: I agree. We must concentrate on strengthening our S&T capacities and capabilities across a large number of areas.

Shyam Sharma: Sir, why so much appeasement to one community by the Congress? Hindus are not your votebank? Respect all religions but stop appeasement

Jairam Ramesh: There is no appeasement. the congress is firmly opposed to communalism of all kinds.

Rajmohan Nair: You like to answer questions praising congress. Why so?

Jairam Ramesh: Hardly. I am answering questions that are critical of congress as well. But there must be a question. I cannot answer opinions or judgements

s nadar: Are you ashamed of your Hindu identity?

Jairam Ramesh: I am proud of many aspects of my Hindu heritage, but there are some aspects of that heritage (for instance caste system) that i find very deplorable. I am Hindu but not a RSS Hindu, who is a bigot.

mahendra singh: Bihar main Congress akele election me jaati to 243 me se kitna milta?

Jairam Ramesh: Alliance zaroori tha

Nitin G: Can there be a day when BJP and Congress (and other large political parties) work together for the betterment of India, after all we all belong to the same land.

Jairam Ramesh: But the BJP's social agenda can never be accepted by the Congress. There is a class of competing visions fundamentally.

Rajesh Rustogi: Learned and knowledgeable people like you should not support Congress policies of disrupting Parliament.

Jairam Ramesh: I agree. Parliament should not be disrupted. There should be debate and discussion. 

Jairam Ramesh: We have a long way to go. In some states we face extinction. the road ahead is arduous.

Gaurav: Hello Mr Ramesh, the Congress party's doors are absolutely closed for honest and genuine youngsters like me. Also, please inform me why the families of senior party leaders' are not helped when they are in need? Congress leaders lie and refuse to recognize their own colleagues. Can you answer please?

Jairam Ramesh: I think RG (Rahul Gandhi) is doing his best to open the doors for youngsters like you who want to be in politics for the long-term.

Prashant Tripathi: Sir, what was your achievement during your government about rural areas?

Jairam Ramesh: You will have to await my next book on that, but I think my main achievement was to bring development into Maoist-affected areas in Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh and revive rural road programmes in Assam and Bihar.

Saifuddin Badri: Sir, why is the Congress not attacking like the BJP did when they were in Opposition on price inflation?

Jairam Ramesh: We have been attacking them aggressively.

Subramoniam R: It seems era of Congress is over at the Centre. It would be difficult for the party to get simple majority in Parliament in future. Has the party alienated BMH -- Brahmin, Muslim, Harijan -- voters who were the backbone of the Congress during the Nehru and indira regime?

Jairam Ramesh: The Congress does face formidable challenges and our resilience is being sorely tested.

markand: Why are you answering only convenient question? And not answering tough ones?

Jairam Ramesh: I am trying to answer all questions -- but cannot answer opinions and judgements which don’t ask questions but give me gyaan!

Sumesh Pillai: How Robert Vadra firm reaped a fortune with DLF deals?

Jairam Ramesh: There is an inquiry going on and let us wait for that report.

rajaneesh sarangi: Sir your argument on every issue is quite right, but the overall perception about the Congress has not improved on the ground. People still do not trust Congress.

Jairam Ramesh: We have a long way to go. In some states, we face extinction. The road ahead is arduous.

robert tellis: Why is the present government not taking along the opposition...? Is there some problem with ego of the current govt at the Centre?

Jairam Ramesh: I have no idea. Mr Modi can afford to be large-hearted and he must learn from Vajpayee at least.

HareKrishnaSingh: Sir, what do you feel about Congress's next term chances?

Jairam Ramesh: Well, we are working hard to ensure that Mr Modi is a one-term PM and to ensure we regain the trust and confidence of the people in 2019

RAJINDER KUMAR: Sir, when will Congress declare Capt Amrinder Singh as Punjab president, after loss in 2017

Jairam Ramesh: Let's see. He is a great leader who is working hard to get the Congress back to power in Punjab in 2017.