Government silent over indiscretions of ministers


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New Delhi : The government Friday preferred to remain silent over the perceived indiscretions of ministers Mani Shankar Aiyar and Jairam Ramesh who have been flouting cabinet norms with their utterances and actions.

Panchayat Raj Minister Aiyar had obliquely taken a dig at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's assertion of 9.2 percent economic growth, saying it was a statistical abstraction as "0.2 per cent of our people are growing at 9.92 per cent per annum."

Minister of State for Commerce Ramesh had shot off a letter to the prime minister asking him to reconsider the clauses regarding Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). He had bypassed cabinet minister Kamal Nath.

"What they have done is wrong, but for the time being we are not going to do anything on the issue," a senior cabinet minister, who did not wish to be identified, told IANS.

With the election of a new president slated next month and the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) counting on every vote, the government would not like to do anything which could affect the outcome, the minister said.

The India-ASEAN trade agreement is under negotiation and is expected to become effective from January one next. The next joint secretary-level negotiations are scheduled for May 8-10.

UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi had on April 11 last year written to prime minister on FTA expressing her concern and had also brought to the attention of Nath.

Aiyar at a function in Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) argued that government policy was "hijacked" by a small elite. But the cabinet he belongs to is quite comfortable with this hijacking.

He said India's system of governance is such that Rs 650 crores (Rs 6.5 billion) for village development is considered wasteful but Rs 7,000 crores (Rs 70 billion) for the Commonwealth Games is considered vital. The classes rule all the time, Aiyar said, adding the masses get a chance to give their opinion on the government's policies only once in five years.