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'You can't run a system in democracy with just fear'

Last updated on: May 06, 2015 11:02 IST

Narendra Modi with his Cabinet colleagues


'There is a communication gap between the Modi government and the allies. During the last one year, the NDA has met only once and that was two hours before the land bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha.'

'The heavens would not have fallen if they had delayed the bill by a few months. We have to be seen to be a sympathetic government which is willing to hold the hands of the farmer. Unfortunately, this signal has not been sent out by this government.'

'When Vajpayee was prime minister if any NDA chief minister asked for time, he was given it the next day. Modi is not doing it.'

'If there is tension on the streets, if there is insecurity amongst the minorities, then Make in India will remain a pipe dream.'

Akali Dal MP Naresh Gujral blasts the BJP.

Naresh Gujral, the Shiromani Akali Dal's Rajya Sabha MP, has emerged as a strong critic of the Narendra Modi government, revealing that the prime minister has failed to consult key allies including the Akali Dal, the Telugu Desam Party and the Shiv Sena on key policy issues including the land bill.

Gujral, below, left, spoke to contributor Rashme Sehgal.

You have spoken out against the strong sense of resentment building up amongst the allies including in your party on how the Modi government is simply not including you in the decision making process?

This is true. There is a communication gap between the Modi government and the allies. During the last one year, the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) has met only once and that was two hours before the land bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha. We were called to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu's office.

Thereafter we have not met again. Atal Bihari Vajpayee's success as prime minister was that he took all his alliance partners along with him, accommodating their points of view and giving them respect.

There is a feeling in the NDA of having been used and we are now being given short shrift. It has something to do with their (the Bharatiya Janata Party) having reached the figure of 282 (seats in the Lok Sabha, 10 seats more than a simple majority).

In addition, any successful government anywhere in the world works towards creating more stakeholders. In the past, we have seen that if stakeholders were reduced as happened under Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, and when that happens, no one is willing to stick their neck out anymore.

You cannot run a system in democracy with just fear. These are exactly the feelings that Arun Shourie has expressed.

Even in the presidential system in the US, the aim is to increase the number of stakeholders whether it be in the Senate or in the House of Representatives. You need to take everyone along with you. This is the essence of protecting democracy.

Are you implying that Modi is isolated, that he does reach out to people?

I don't know the man at all. I cannot comment on this.

Are you upset that you were not consulted prior to the promulgation of the ordinance pertaining to the land bill?

People like us are members of a farmer's party because Punjab is largely an agricultural state. In politics, a great deal is based on perception. Journalist Rajdeep Sardesai held a debate between Digvijaya Singh and (Nitin) Gadkari in which the farmers were up in arms against the BJP. The Opposition has cleverly manipulated the (Land Bill) ordinance in their favour.

This is not to say that changes did not need to be introduced in the earlier (land) Act passed by the upa (United Progressive Alliance) government. It was so convoluted that with that bill not a single acre would have been sold.

We all supported it because the Lok Sabha elections were six months away. Who could be seen to be anti-farmer?

Under that legislation, all infrastructure projects, irrigation projects, power projects, everything would have come to a standstill.

Land is on the Concurrent list (of the Constitution) and yet Naidu called us two hours before the ordinance was to be passed.

I would like to highlight that Punjab has one of the most successful models of land acquisition. Farmers will give their consent if they know they are getting more than a fair price.

This is the formula being followed in Punjab. We have set up the Mohali airport; we are setting up a huge petrochemical complex in Bhatinda; three to four power plants are coming up in Punjab, a new Chandigarh is on the anvil; thousands of hectares of land has been acquired and there has been no protest. We have a system which is very fair.

We have set up a local committee comprising of a local MP, a local MLA, the local deputy commissioner and the members of the panchayat. They all sit together with farmers and work out what is the market price of land that is the real price of land. We then give 30 per cent extra allowance for dislocation.

Farmers have also been given a choice -- where land has to be redeveloped, they can either take money for every acre or else offer them between 1,600 and 1,700 square yards of developed land. We have also been giving jobs to one person of a family.

What we have been saying all along is that the government needs to clarify that the state law is supreme. We will educate the farmer that what is being done (land acquisition) is right.

The situation in agriculture is not good with two-thirds being just a form of disguised employment. Kids do not want to work. They want to immigrate. Creating work places close to the villages is a good idea.

Farming contributes 15 per cent of the GDP with 65 per cent of people dependent on it. This is a mismatch. If the government can provide jobs near their villages, there will less pressure on urbanisation. Consent clause informally -- 51 per cent majority.

Our party is of the view that there be a Social Impact Assessment for large projects. What is a fair price (for land acquisition) should be defined. But the BJP is not willing to discuss matters.

Why is the government so keen to push the land bill at a time when farmers are facing so much distress?

The government has a full blown agrarian crisis on their hands. First the rains failed, then there has been untimely rain and hailstorm. Fruits and vegetables have suffered extensive damage and farmers are in a state of desperation.

Timing is the key more so in politics. The heavens would not have fallen if they had delayed the bill by a few months. They need to first provide succour to farmers. You have to be seen to be farmer friendly. Even if fiscal deficit increases by half per cent it is not of consequence.

We have to be seen to be a sympathetic government which is willing to hold the hands of the farmer. Unfortunately, this signal has not been sent out by this government.

Naresh GujralThe anti-secular element in the Sangh Parivar is also a source of concern to the allies?

For people like me and my party -- secularism is a matter of faith.

I cannot emphasise enough that we are a secular country. If there is tension on the streets, if there is insecurity amongst the, minorities, then Make in India will remain a pipe dream.

This government should realise that FDI will come only if there is peace and tranquillity. Modi speaks the right words when he is aboard and also sometimes when he is here within the county, but his words are not translated into action on the ground.

These fringe element lunatics will try and create further friction amongst communities. Recently they declared that Sikhs are Hindus. We need to understand that the Sikhs have a separate identity, when they hear this they get hurt.

Where is the need to make a statement like this? They are loyal Indians. They have sacrificed the most for this country. What is the need to irritate them.

The Akali Dal is an ally of yours, but when you speak like this, you encourage the fringe element. The Akali Dal is a moderate party, but you weaken the hand of the chief minister (Parkash Singh Badal) with these utterances.

I can cite other examples of their arrogance.

They give statements that they will fight the next election on their own. The state elections are two years away. A statement like this sounds almost arrogant because they are trying to convey that the Akali Dal has lost credibility.

Or the way it is being portrayed that the BJP president (Amit Shah) is going on a padyatra to fight drugs. We welcome it. We have been fighting drugs all this years. It could have been a coordinated effort.

You have warned against the serious repercussions that will occur if the Akali Dal and BJP fall apart?

In my mind it is imperative for the Akali Dal and BJP to stay together. This is the only way the Hindu-Sikh bhaichara will remain intact. This is the life-blood of Punjab's economy and culture. It was badly ruptured by Indira Gandhi's misadventure and it took two decades to restore confidence.

If the two parties break up, the radical element in the Akali Dal will get more radicalised.

Their first demand will be that Chandigarh be given to Punjab. Next they will demand that water not be given to Haryana. The Centre will have to dismiss the government and this will allow foreign elements like Pakistan to create further discord in the country.

Basically you are saying the allies have been given short shrift.

When we were in the Opposition, we were allies, now that power has come, we are being hit. Chandrababu Naidu is a very unhappy man. He is saying the commitments made during the time the state of Andhra (Pradesh) was bifurcated must be respected. The assurances given on the floor of Parliament must be respected.

When Vajpayee was prime minister if any chief minister of his NDA government asked for time (to meet him), he was given it the next day. Modi is not doing it.

Vajpayee was a coalition guru. Now that the target of 282 has been achieved, everybody has become redundant.

Do you see the possibility of a joint session of Parliament being called to pass the Land Bill?

The government cannot call a joint session of Parliament. For that, the Rajya Sabha will have to defeat the bill. The Opposition has decided they will not defeat it, they simply will not discuss it which is why they keep coming to the well of the House. Meanwhile they will keep doing propaganda against the bill. They are playing their politics well. We have been put on the back foot.

The Akali Dal and the Badal family have been enmeshed in the Moga bus molestation case which resulted in the death of a teenage girl.

Everyone involved in the rape case -- whether it be the conductor or driver -- should all be punished.

I believe the government should take action against the 20 passengers who were sitting in the bus. They are also abettors of this crime because they did not raise their finger to help either the girl or her mother.

As a society, we have become sick. We are losing our courage to act.

You have also spoken out against the poor floor management of the government in Parliament.

There is a complete mismatch between Naidu as urban affairs minister and parliamentary affairs minister. On one hand you are getting MPs to vacate their houses and on the other hand you are seeking their help. It is a mismatch.

You need a guy who is easy going, someone who is happy to sit in Central Hall (of Parliament) and chat with everyone, someone like (Arun) Jaitley.

Naidu would have made an excellent rural development minister since he knows so much about that subject. We cannot have someone who is aloof, at least that is what his body language coveys.

Your party was in the forefront of backing Modi in his bid to come to power.

There are no IOUs (in politics). But one thing I must emphasise is that the nation cannot survive without secularism. You cannot have tension on streets and have progress. I must in all fairness emphasise that the present government has put the right building blocks in place.

Coal auction, spectrum, environment laws blocking development have all been given the go ahead. Gadkari is very dynamic.

Modi has made an impact in the international arena and the stature of country has risen. He must bring about a transformational change, otherwise the country is doomed.

I am confident that change will come about in the attitude of the leadership and it will become more sensitive to the issues raised by us.

Rashme Sehgal