Thursday, July 14, 2011

I do not see rift between PM and Sonia: Pawar

This report has appeared in the DNA edition of Mumbai on July 13, 2011

Dismisses speculation about Congress' woes as chit-chat in corridors of power

New Delhi: Asked whether he perceives any rift between UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi and prime minister Manmohan Singh, agriculture minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Sharad Pawar told DNA on Tuesday, “Where do you get this information? I am an insider in the government though I am an outsider to Congress, and I do not see any rift between the two.”

He described the speculation about the goings on in the government and in the Congress as “chit-chat in the corridors of power.” He said that there were always many views in the Congress and there was nothing new in it, implying that it should not be seen as a challenge either to Gandhi or Singh.

He said that he was not consulted about Tuesday's cabinet reshuffle because it did not involve the NCP. The reshuffle basically involved the Congress, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC). The Congress had consulted the two partners and the changes in the Congress quota was decided by the party. “Our party has three ministers, and there was no change in that.” The formula for the UPA cabinet was decided in 2004, he said.

He refused to talk about the food security bill because it fell under the food ministry. “My job as agriculture minister is to see that there is production of food. This time the performance of agriculture has been extremely good. It has helped in the overall growth rate of the economy,” he said.

He said that the Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, of which he was also a member, had asked the food ministry to send it to the law ministry for framing the bill. “We want to introduce the bill in the monsoon session,” he said, but he refused to say whether the National Advisory Council (NAC), which had proposed the measure, had prevailed.

Pawar described Manmohan Singh as pragmatic when asked whether the prime minister was keen on ushering in major economic reforms. “It is no use chanting reforms, reforms, reforms. We have to see what can be implemented. The prime minister is aware of it.”

Speaking guardedly about allowing FDI in retail, he said that it would certainly help farmers and consumers but it would affect a large section of retailers, and their interests cannot be ignored.

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