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Jairam Ramesh's China comment lands him in trouble, meets PM

By Onkar Singh
Last updated on: May 10, 2010 23:50 IST
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Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday after he was asked to explain why he had made the uncalled-for comments earlier.

Ramesh had said that the policies of the Indian government (read Union home ministry and defence ministry) were "alarmist" and that the government was "paranoid" about "Chinese businessmen entering the industrial sector in India".

As he walked out of the meeting Ramesh refused to answer questions posed by the media.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi was reportedly very upset with the remarks and the union minister had to send a written explanation to her after she had refused to meet him.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singvi said the party did not endorse Ramesh's view, which has provided enough fodder to the opposition.

Earlier, the Bhartiya Janata Party launched a frontal attack on Ramesh and dubbed him as "Chinese agent".

"We outrightly condem Jairam Ramesh, who had gone on record to describe the Indian government's policies as 'alarmist'," Prakash Javdekar, BJP spokesperson said at a press conference in New Delhi.

Javdekar said the recent revelations of officially tapped conversations between a lobbyist and a minister confirmed the role of lobbyists within the power corridors.

"Utterances of Shri Jairam Ramesh establish that lobbyists also operate within the government," he said.

The BJP spokesperson wanted to know if the home ministry and security agencies had laid down security guidelines within the Cabinet.

"Can a Union minister rubbish these guidelines? Can he urge the Government of India to trade with particular companies? Can the environment minister disregard the 'Allocation of Business Rules' of the home ministry?" Javdekar wanted to know.

He described Ramesh's attempt to justify his comments as absurd.

"He has presented a bizarre logic to justify his lobbying. According to Ramesh, India would lose advantage and newfound love between the two countries in the post Copenhagen scenario. This is totally absurd. As a central minister he knows very well that there is no ban on Chinese equipment and more than 70 percent of telecom equipment comes from China. Thus his comments are not based on any genuine ground."

Arun Jaitley, leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, said he was shocked when Ramesh rose up to raise questions about the attitude of the Union government towards Chinese business firms.

"He spoke like a Chinese agent," said Jaitley, who is leading a delegation to China that included Ramesh.

"Even Prakash Karat would not have gone to that extent," he said commenting on the Communist Party of India – Marxist leader.

Meanwhile, the Centre issued a clarification that it did not hold back the visas of Chinese businessmen and officials, and that they had been cleared in less than two hours to enable them to travel to India.

Some of the top ranking ministers described Ramesh as another Shashi Tharoor in the making. Tharoor had been asked to resign from the cabinet by the prime minister following his alleged involvement in the PIL controversy.

Two weeks later, President Pratibha Patil will be visiting China on an official visit.
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Onkar Singh in New Delhi
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