Mangaluru: Former Union Minister Manish Tewari held a press meet at the district congress office here on August 19. Manish Tewari is in the city for a workshop on Democratic Political Leadership, organised by Mangalore University and the Nehru Centre that will be held on 20 August to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
Addressing the mediapersons about the National Security Advisory (NSA) talks between India and Pakistan scheduled for 23 and 24 August, he said that there has been a lot of tension along the LoC and the international border for the last couple of days. “There has been continuous shelling taking place from the Pakistani side. The joint statement which was signed by India and Pakistan in Ufa, Russia has been totally blown out of the water by the Pakistanis. Even before the ink had dried on the joint statement, their national security adviser Sartaj Aziz almost rubbished the statement.” He said that a similar sentiment was echoed by other senior Pakistani officials.
He further said after the recent Punjab attack, the terrorist arrest in J&K and continuous shelling on the border, what added insult to the injury was that the Pakistani high commissioner has now extended invitations to the separatists and people who have known linkages with terrorists to attend a reception in honour of Sartaj Aziz in Delhi. Recalling the incident in August last year, when the Pakistani high commissioner had held consultations with the separatists, he said that Prime Minister Modi had cancelled talks. “Now that Pakistan has done it again and is leaving no stone unturned to provoke and humiliate India, why does India want to continue with the NSA level talks? What does India expect out of these talks?” he questioned. He also said that it would be appropriate given the environment and continuous provocation by Pakistan that the talks are cancelled. “There is no point in talking with Pakistan when our innocent civilians are being killed, not only by their terrorists but also by their shelling,” he added.
Regarding the unprovoked midnight assault on students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune yesterday. He said that these students represent the brightest of the best in terms of the creative material available in the country and the manner in which they were treated does not augur well for democracy. “The students have been agitated that a person with no credentials has been appointed as chairman of FTII. Rather than listening to the students and addressing to their legitimate reasons, the government has resorted to the most brutal crackdown on these innocent students.” He said that the incident is a harbinger of the “Modi midnight knock syndrome” and if the people protest or disagree with the government, they will be arrested, jailed, tortured and their civil liberties will be assaulted.
“In a larger perspective, the manner in which the government has opposed the right to privacy in the Supreme Court, opposed the decriminalization of the completely obnoxious law on defamation, has been squeamish about the rights of the LGBT community, tantamounts to squeezing the liberal spaces in this country. In the years to come, as the government will come under increasing pressure, you will see that this fascist and Hitlerian tendency will only grow. Therefore, it is very important that all progressive, pluralistic and liberal forces, condemn the aberrations of the government and protect democracy in this country.”
He said that the responsibility of running Parliament is of the government and not of the opposition and these principles were set in stone and were sanctified by the immortal words of the then Leader of Opposition of the Rajya Sabha and the current Finance Minister Arun Jaitley when he said that disruption is a legitimate parliamentary tactic. “Today, when I read in the papers that Jaitley was bemoaning to the capitalists of India about the politics of disruption, I could not but help myself into thinking that it was like the devil trying to preach the scripture.”
Speaking on the GST bill, he said that there is a problem in its design. He also said that the specific objections which the Congress had were regard to the rate of taxation, redressal mechanism, etc. “Unless, the government accedes to the opposition’s demand of taking action against its ministers and addresses the design issues pertaining to the GST bill, the Congress will not accept the bill,” he added.
When asked about graft charges on its own ministers, he replied, “As far as our ministers are concerned, we firmly believe in letting the law take its own course even if its against our Chief Minsters. These very allegations against the CM of Himachal Pradesh were levelled by Jaitley during the election campaign and were demolished by the people. The allegations against Congress Chief Ministers are nothing but an exaggerated reaction to get out of the predicament which the BJP finds itself in. The External Affairs Minister should be really bothered about her own conduct rather than pointing fingers at other people.
The BJP has set its target for the membership drive at 11 crore. When asked if the Congress has a future in light of this, he said, “If miscalled call constitutes a membership, then I would rather worry for the future of the BJP. It is absolutely an oxymoron that a party which prided itself of being a cadre based party, has now become a missed call party and by the time 2019 comes, they would have missed the political bus.”
Adding to that, he said that people have realised that the country cannot run on rhetoric bluff and bluster. “The Prime Minister has now stopped getting sympathetic audiences in India, so he’s started travelling all over the world to find sympathetic audiences to deliver his diatribe. But that cannot substitute for governance.”
He further said that governance in the last 14-15 months has taken a big hit with religious polarisation deliberately orchestrated by the BJP. Despite, their numbers in the Lok Sabha, the government is not politically stable. There are differing voices within the party on the government Pakistan policy.
“Jaitley has seemed to achieved the impossible. He’s seems to have actually shrank the economy. According to the data of the Ministry of Finance, 8 core sectors of the economy have recorded negative growth for the last 5 months. The government may be batting itself that the inflation rate is negative, but any economist will tell you a low inflation rate is actually good of a developing economy while a negative rate means that there is no off-take of goods and services.” He anticipated that in the months and years ahead, not only would the current government lose its relevance but the BJP would also be marginalised.
Speaking on Modi’s continual attacks on the UPA government, he said that it does not “behove” the Prime Minister to do such a thing. He said that Modi had not only done this in Dubai, but in Canada too and it was “unbecoming” of the PM to be behaving in this manner. “Unfortunately, he seems to have a Congress-phobia or obsession. And the funny thing is that the PM is ready to circumvent the globe to deliver lectures. He cannot face his peers in Parliament and rather indulges in this demagoguery.” Jokingly, he said that if this state of affairs continued, then the Congress would have to send “spokespersons abroad to counter him on foreign soil”.
Remarking on the BJP government’s schemes, he said that the Jan Dhan is a very extortionist construct and its idea is to take money from the poorest of the poor and give it to the “capitalist friends” of the government. “If you look at the balance sheets of banks, thousands, lakhs of crores are NPAs and most of these were restructured in the last one year of the BJP government. The unfortunate reality is that you have a government in Delhi which only works for the rich, capitalists and is infact almost like a puppet in the hands of Indian big business,” he said.
Congress leader P V Mohan and others were present.