New Delhi: Asserting that the government went out of its way to accommodate the concerns of MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the Land Bill, Union Minister Jairam Ramesh said, "I don't mind giving in to pressure, if the pressure is legitimate".
In an exclusive interview to CNN-IBN's Rupashree Nanda, when asked whether he was nervous that the Land Bill may not get the nod of Parliament given the regular disruptions, Ramesh said, "I was prepared for the worst."
Here's an excerpt from the interview:
Rupashree Nanda: Your party at one point was also thinking of the ordinance route for the land bill so when it was finally passed, did you have moments of nervousness? Did you feel that at some point that it might not go through?
Jairam Ramesh: I was prepared, in fact, that if it did not pass in this session of Parliament, it will come back in the Winter Session of Parliament. Because we have a three week Winter Session and we will get it there. If it did not pass in the winter session, I'd actually reconciled myself to the fact that, that fate did not want that this new bill be passed in this session of Parliament. I wasn't nervous but I was prepared for the worst. And I had to go back to the Lok Sabha the second time because the Rajya Sabha had four important amendments.
Rupashree Nanda: It was Shivraj Singh Chouhan's initiative but it came in a day after the bill had been passed in the Lok Sabha - so you did go out of your way to accommodate those amendments? Why was that? What were the political compulsions?
Jairam Ramesh: No, there were no political compulsions. You know, chief minister of a very important state came to me - after all he belongs to the BJP which is the principle opposition party- he spoke to me and he said look there are some concerns that some of these retrospective clause provisions would adversely affect irrigation projects.
Rupashree Nanda: It also sent out the signal that you gave to pressure from the BJP?
Jairam Ramesh: I don't mind giving in to pressure. I am in politics- politics is the art of give and take, politics is the art of compromise - I don't mind giving in to pressure if that pressure is legitimate, if there is a point in that pressure, if that pressure is coming in the aid of a good cause, I don't mind, I am not inflexible.
Rupashree Nanda: Coming at a time that it does, at a time of economic slowdown? Even during your tenure in the Environment Ministry you have been accused of focusing on certain policies that have slowed down growth in the country.
Jairam Ramesh: I respond to accusations that have a certain intellectual merit so I don't want to get into this argument at all. But the fact of the matter is this bill has been in the works for two years, it came up in Parliament, Parliament passed it- that is all that is there to it. Every time is a good time.
Rupashree Nanda: Will it send the right signal to investors also?
Jairam Ramesh: It is sending the right signal to farmers, it is sending the right signal to landless labour, it is sending the right signal to tribals, it is sending the right signal to Dalits. And any bill that is in favour of farmers, tribals, landless and Dalits, in my view is in national interest.
Rupashree Nanda: In your political career so far, do you think that this has been one of the most fulfilling moments?
Jairam Ramesh: Well, I don't seem to have satisfied anybody because the progressives are unhappy with the bill, Medha Patkar is unhappy, the industrialists are unhappy- the CIIs, the FICCIS are unhappy. Maybe it is not satisfying because no section seems to be fully satisfied. To that extent I am satisfied that I have been able to weave a middle path.