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Interview: Trying to engage Opposition, want the Parliament to work, says Nirmala Sitharaman

Hope people can see difference in the way the NDA govt is handling Parliament, MoS for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman tells Liz Mathew.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi | Updated: July 31, 2015 8:03:59 am
MoS for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman MoS for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman

With the continuing logjam in Parliament, isn’t the BJP giving ammunition to the Congress to be a formidable opposition?
The government is definitely trying to engage and discuss with the Opposition, make the House work. If the Congress is looking for a way to come out of its shock,  it is their outlook. The government’s intention is to function, to have debates in Parliament and to work in the interest of the people.

There is a view that the BJP is not interested in ending the stalemate, rather it is keen on projecting Congress’s faults ahead of the Bihar elections.
The kind of revelations that are coming out even from the foreign governments have reinforced the view that nothing has changed in the Congress.  The BJP does not intend to use Parliament to project Congress’s corruption.

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In the process of countering one scam with another, isn’t the BJP painting itself unlike what it has promised to be — a party with a difference?
I certainly hope the people are able to see the difference — the way this government is handling Parliament and the way the UPA handled it. I remember how Marshals were used to remove MPs from the House.

Certain promises made by the government, like on black money and MSP for farm products  formula are stuck. Do you think this will hurt the party’s image during the Bihar polls?
Not at all. In fact, there has been consistency in trying to protect the farmers. Soon after the government was formed, close monitoring of the prices of essential commodities was established and it is continuing through the Prime Minister himself and the entire concerned ministries. Prices of goods like onions and potatoes are being monitored. At no point there was a sharp increase in the prices. The Government of India would have been taken to court from 2017 if this government had not done a course correction on what happened in Bali (WTO talks). The intervention made by this government made many people think that we were isolated in the global arena, and still the Congress has the temerity to claim that we are anti-farmer.

Some of your allies have strong reservations against policies like the land Bill. How do you plan to handle it?
We will talk to them. Congress’s extreme argument  that it needs the 2013 Act alone just does not work as the party’s own CMs had written against it. We are just doing a precision exercise to correct the areas where there are handicaps. It is with the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), we have not even bulldozed it. While Congress’s own members are looking at it clause by clause, their vice president goes and says he will not let it pass. Why the hypocrisy?

With the Rajya Sabha showing no signs of coming around, will the BJP consider other options to pass the bills?
Every available option will be used.  We will go through the process. Now the bill is with the JPC, let it come out with its report. I hope good sense will prevail.

In the past, BJP always demanded resignation of controversial ministers before discussion. Now you have a different stand.
These are two completely different situations. On the issue of 2G or Coalgate, the CAG had come up with the report citing the loss that the policies had caused. Those were not normal circumstances, but extraordinary. The CAG reports had come out after getting clarifications from the government. The figure of the loss quoted was phenomenal. Then Adarsh scam was a scam related to war widows and their land, the Commonwealth Games scam had brought so much “badnami” (ignominy) to the country.

But even on the P K Bansal issue, you had demanded minister’s resignation first.It was later, but in the same context.
It wasn’t possible to isolate that incident. Every thing was related to omissions and  commissions.

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