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Improving quality of politics a big challenge: Arun Jaitley

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, said that though India has done well in terms of economic growth and development in the last 20 years the quality of politics in the country is still a big area of concern. HT reports. Full coverage

india Updated: Nov 20, 2010 17:21 IST

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley listed five areas of serious concern that confront the nation in the years to come — poverty of tribals, declining agricultural productivity, Kashmir, insurgency from within and outside and the quality of politics – at the HT Leadership Summit on Saturday.

Sharing the platform with him on the discussion topic 'Key issues that confront us', senior CPI(M) 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 the “nexus” involving a section of politicians, bureaucracy and the big business and their “powerful ways of subverting the system 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 area of concern was improving the quality of politics in the country. He said that dynasties have replaced merit in Indian politics. He also talked about other ills like corruption etc that have plagued Indian politics.

“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. If we can improve the quality of our polity the other challenges, which he has mentioned, will start moving in the direction of getting resolved, Jaitley said.

The senior BJP leader said, “the post-1990s have seen our politics dominated by parties that are caste-centric and defy anti-incumbency but gaining social sanction and becoming a challenge to good governance.”

Karat said, “India may have an impressive growth…but we have seen that big money wins elections. To quote a study, the win rate of candidates who have more than Rs 50 crore as assets is 33% as against mere 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 and enter the parliamentary system to promote private interests directly.”

On current controversies like the 2G spectrum plaguing the government and Parliament, 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. We don’t want a debate as a way out of the crisis for the government when, in reality, it has created an infrastructure to protect the corrupt by its appointments in the CVC and CBI,”

Brinda said, “we do want to disrupt Parliament. 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. I appeal to the PM to help Parliament resume normal work -- assuring the people of action by agreeing to the setting up of a bipartisan joint parliamentary committee(JPC). Jaitley added, “the issue (of the 2G spectrum allocation) was debated in August last year…but for the sustained pressure put in Parliament, the (telecom) minister (A Raja) won’t have resigned.”

Responding to a query on whether regional parties like the DMK were arm twisting the national parties because their numbers in Parliament, Jaitley said, “regional and smaller parties grew to meet regional aspirations where national parties were not strong. They brought federal quality to our system. But all parties must remember they have a responsibility towards the country and governance. At times, we have seen some regional parties have not acted in accordance with ethical governance.”

Karat said, “why do you assume that the national parties are more committed to probity. Recent developments have proved to the contrary. It would be unfair to paint the regional parties as the ones promoting corruption. See what’s happening in Mumbai.”

Jaitley said, “the PM has more sympathies than admiration from most Indians.” Jaitley dismissed a questioner’s suggestion that the politicians feasted on issues like terrorism and corruption to further their interests, saying that “it’s cynical view…a large section of our MPs represent the grassroot and have brought our attention to some problems, leading to even correction of some legislations. It’s not so bad.”

More from HT Summit:

I face test after test: PM

Anybody having done wrong in 2G will be punished: PM
Cannot comment on cabinet reshuffle: PM

First Published: Nov 20, 2010 14:20 IST