Updated: March 20, 2016 7:52:42 am
Former Union Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has said the Maharashtra assembly should not have suspended AIMIM MLA Waris Pathan for the remainder of the budget session after he refused to chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. “I think, on a more careful reflection, the assembly should not have suspended the MLA, that’s my opinion,” Chidambaram said at the Express Adda in Mumbai Friday.
The Congress, along with the Shiv Sena and BJP, led the House chorus for strict action against Pathan on March 16. A day later, Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh told The Indian Express that there was nothing wrong in the action of the assembly. Singh supported the House action and said “why should anyone have a problem in saying it (‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’)”.
Chidambaram said Jawaharlal Nehru defined Bharat Mata as the people of India and the slogan ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ is victory to the people of India. “I don’t think anyone has qualms in saying victory to the people of India. But when a political party appropriates such a slogan and says this is the definition of patriotism, those who say it are patriotic and those who don’t are not patriotic, then I reject that definition,” he said.
Describing Digvijaya Singh’s statement as a “personal opinion”, Chidambaram said the Congress has not expressed any view on the issue of suspension of the AIMIM legislator. “My party has not said anything so far,” he said. The former finance minister, who presented the “dream” budget of 1997, when tax rates and peak tariffs were slashed, said the BJP government has not taken steps to revive exports, aggregate demand and investment by domestic investors.
“These are the three main challenges that the economy is facing currently. First, nothing is being done that addresses the issue of sluggish aggregate demand. Second, if investors are not willing to invest in India, the domestic investors are not willing to invest in India, that is the problem we should address. Third is exports. I think the government has given up. I don’t hear or see the commerce minister on exports. Fifteen months in a row, never in India’s history has export been negative,” he said.
India’s exports shrank 5.6 per cent in February for an unprecedented fifteenth straight month. New project announcements meanwhile continue to fall, according to CMIE data — Rs 8.2 trillion in 2015 compared to Rs 9.4 trillion the previous year.
Asked what would be his advice to the government on improving private investor sentiment in the country, Chidambaram said, “I don’t give free advice, that’s the business of the government. The government can put up proposals and ask us to react. Give me some information, give me all the data and then we can give advice.”
On the Jat quota stir in Haryana and the Patel agitation in Gujarat, Chidambaram said that the respective state governments should be able to find a solution based on the social and political context. “I think preaching equality among unequals is the worst form of discrimination. Reservation is the only way in which people who have suffered centuries of neglect can be brought up. However, I feel reservation must go to those who are at the bottom of the pyramid among the reserved classes than those who are at the top of the pyramid among the reserved classes,” he said.
On the controversial statements over the alleged fake encounter of Ishrat Jahan, Chidambaram said the government has “deliberately” framed the debate in the case of Ishrat in a wrong way. “The issue is not whether Ishrat Jahan was a terrorist or not. The issue is, can anyone be killed in a fake encounter,” he said.
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