Parliament was not functioning recently, especially the Rajya Sabha, where the Opposition has got larger numbers. The immediate cause was some remarks by Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti who is a Member of Parliament from Uttar Pradesh (UP). She is a follower of Ritambhara and used to language which is not politically acceptable. Obviously she does not know the implications that it can have in the running of the Government. Actually, it was reported that the Congress and the BJP had come to an agreement on the passing of various Bills that are not controversial — which are on economic matters or procedural matters. Unfortunately even that came to a standstill. The Speaker or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha could not do much, it is the Parliamentary Affairs Minister who had to get across to the Congress party and find a solution. It will be a shame if this whole session is again wiped out like earlier sessions. Meanwhile on the political front, the various factions of the Janata Dal, which was the party in power in 1989, are trying to get together. Everybody knows they don’t have any ideological differences and it is only personality based and region based — Mulayam Singh in UP, Lalu and Nitish in Bihar, Deve Gowda in Karnataka, Chautala in Haryana etc. I don’t know how far this will go, but it is a good sign that politics is coming alive. Congress somehow looks like abdicating its responsibility even of being an effective Opposition. Kharge is a thorough gentleman but as a Leader of the Opposition he has to be vocal, which he is not. It is a long haul. The next elections are five years away, but the non-Congress, non-BJP parties must get together to do something concrete. The Left of course is in disarray, and they should also introspect and whatever mistakes they have made they must try to rectify. In my opinion the Left is an important element of Indian society, at least in Bengal and Kerala and also Tripura. They have youngsters — they should come to the forefront and be given leadership responsibilities, so that the Left movement wherever it exists can again become effective.
India as a whole is a country of poor people; more than half the population is poor, out of the others you can’t call them rich. Rich is a very-very small fraction. Unless the Government or the Opposition parties when they come to Government, do something for the poor this politics makes no sense. As somebody has rightly pointed out, most of our leaders, most of the parties have become machines for fighting elections. Once they win elections they go back to the same ways as the other party which they have replaced. If that happens with the BJP at the Centre, it will be a sad thing. They have come with a clear majority, after 30 years a party in power has been able to do so. Unless they can show some concrete results, if they also carry on business like the other Governments, then they will soon lose their shine.
The Prime Minister has been travelling abroad and creating goodwill for India, which is okay. In fact from Australia we can hope to get some uranium etc., which will help our nuclear program. Obama is coming here for Republic Day, which are two firsts at a time. It will be the first time that an American President is coming on Republic Day, and the first time an American President is making a second trip during his tenure. It has never happened before. All this is good, but India has to put its act together to take advantage. Merely giving a few more visas in America will not help us. What is that you seek from America and on what terms?
Till now we haven’t seen any economic policy moving though the Finance Minister has said that he is going to announce reforms in the Budget coming in February. The last Budget was a very, very timid one and he should take some bold steps in this Budget, which can unleash not only investment but also employment opportunities. The agricultural sector remains the backbone of the Indian economy and the Government must do something to give concessions or advantages to the agricultural sector. Whatever you do either in agriculture or in manufacturing or in infrastructure should be done now. The results may take 5 or 10 years to come, but that is no reason that you should not act. You have come into power, please put in your best. It is in the interest of the country, the country is a continuing thing, elections are held every 5 years, so doesn’t matter who is in power. But please do the things that are required to be done, which have already been delayed. The last 5-7 years have gone waste. All action should be taken expeditiously so that we can hope to build on it, and results will come after a few years.