Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley listed five areas of serious concern that confront the nation in the years to come at the HT Leadership Summit on Saturday.
They were poverty of tribals, declining agricultural productivity, Kashmir, insurgency from within and outside and the quality of politics.
Sharing the platform with him on Key Issues that Confront Us, senior CPM politburo member Brinda Karat zeroed in on the “growing gap” between the rich and the poor “at the base of the pyramid as the single major issue of concern”.
She also saw a “nexus” involving a section of politicians, bureaucracy and big business and their “powerful ways of subverting the system and destabilizing India” as a big worry.
Jaitely said, “Anybody can be the PM, our growth rate is going to continue… but 20 years from now, the problems that will remain with us will be poverty in central India, low farm productivity that could cause food shortage. We could continue to grapple with terrorism and insurgency and blunder in Kashmir by the kind of approach we have undertaken — our TV channels may be carrying on the same debate that we see today.”
However, Jaitley’s main concern was improving the quality of politics. He said dynasties had replaced merit and talked of other ills like corruption.
“Governments have committed blunders in the past six decades and it is important to acknowledge them if we want to learn from them and improve in the future,” Jaitley said.
Karat said, “India may have impressive growth…but we have seen big money wins elections. To quote a study, the win rate of candidates with more than Rs 50 crore as assets is 33% as against 0.44% winning with less than Rs 10 lakh. We have to put a stop to a situation where big money is able to manage public policy.”
On controversies such as the 2G spectrum, both the leaders blamed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and agreed that merely debating won’t solve issues without a determined action to curb corruption.
Jaitley said: “The Prime Minister has a good track record of so-called statements of good intentions…but very little to show by way of action. It’s time (corrupt) people are identified, prosecuted and sent to jail.”
Karat said, “My party took up the issue of the spectrum allocation with the PM first… I agree with Arun (Jaitley) that the system is being subverted to protect narrow partisan interests.”