New Delhi, Dec 13: Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was at his persuasive best in the Rajya Sabha as he appealed to the opposition to bring a consensus on major issues in order to give a strong message to the world.
Replying to the debate on Appropriations Bill, Mukherjee said, it was Sonia Gandhi who in this day on Dec 13, 2001 was the first to ring up after the terror attack on Parliament to ask the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee whether he was safe.
“It was Vajpayee ji who later told Parliament that Indian democracy is safe if the Leader of Opposition inquires about the safety of the Prime Minister. Let us keep this democracy safe. Let us be proud of it”, said Mukherjee.
The Finance Minister reminded members how the opposition during Narasinha Rao's regime opposed India's entry into the WTO, because of which the WTO had to warn India either to amend its laws or get out of WTO. The ruling party and the opposition then joined hands to pass the law. “If we can do it in 2001, we can do it in 2011 too”, said Mukherjee.
“Partisan politics on important issues will not help the nation. We in the government will try to build up the consensus and we will have to convey a strong message to the world”, he said.
Referring to frequent logjams in Parliament due to disruptions, the Finance Minister said, if parliamentary body is converted into a demonstrative platform, I think we are not doing any justice. I do not understand what great purpose we achieve by such disruptions, he added.
At a time of economic slowdown, worries about falling rupee, rising inflation, the collective wisdom of the political establishment can only resolve the crisis, he said.
Whenever parliament speaks with one voice, it does have its effect on the government, on the economy and also on the people as a whole, Mukherjee said.
PTI adds: The minister said the government will make efforts to build broad consensus on reforms as the economy has resilience to overcome the problem. He said questions have been raised whether the economy is going to be derailed in the wake of IIP figures turning negative and overall growth slowing.
“We have the capacity and resilience to overcome the crisis,” he said.
The industrial production declined by 5.1 per cent in October, while the rupee crossed all time low of Rs 53 to a dollar.
The House later returned the Bill, granting Parliamentary approval for extra expenditure of Rs 63,180 crore for the current fiscal.
The Finance Minister said that for the economy to recover, it has to be demonstrated that Parliament and other institutions can function without disturbance.
He expressed disappointment over frequent disruptions in Parliament. “Let us not institutionalise instability in Parliament”, he said, adding coalition governments have become stable since 2000.
Against the backdrop of difficult economic situation, he said political parties have to demonstrate that Parliament and other institutions function and it will have its impact on the government and confidence will return in the economy.
On its part, he said, “The government will not be found lacking in building consensus on broad economic policies.” Denying a perception that there is paralysis in decision making process, the Finance Minister said, “It is not so.” The government, he said, has taken a number of decisions which include national manufacturing policy, incentives to small industries and package to debt-ridden handloom weavers.
Referring to rising expenditure, Mukherjee said it was mainly on account of increased outgo towards fuel, fertiliser and food subsidy.
He said crude oil prices in the international market has gone up to USD 107-110 per barrel from USD 90 at the time of formulation of the proposals for the 2011-12 budget.
Mukherjee had earlier said the total subsidy bill was likely to exceed by about Rs 1 lakh crore in the current financial year.
As regards the international crisis, he hoped world leaders would put in place a mechanism to prevent the crisis from spreading to bigger countries. If the crisis spread to larger economies, “no amount of stimulus infused in economy can prevent the world economy from coming under recession,” he added.