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Event Report: 'Not holding civic polls is a violation of the Constitution' (includes video and audio)

Jairam Ramesh (left), MP, former Union Minister along with Gopalkrishna Gandhi, former administrator, diplomat, and Governor at a discussion in Chennai on July 13, 2018. Photo: M_VEDHAN


Audio : 01:38:34 Minutes

Congress leader criticises the idea of simultaneous elections

Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Jairam Ramesh on Friday slammed the Tamil Nadu government for not holding local body elections.

Mr. Ramesh said it was a violation of Article 243 of the Constitution. “I was surprised. All States, including Bihar and UP and other States, which are poor, have elections once in five years. Which is what the Constitution provides for. But Tamil Nadu is the only State where elections to panchayats and nagar palikas have not been held for seven years. This is unacceptable in a democracy,” he said.

The former Union Minister of Rural Development was in conversation with former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi at the Kasturi Srinivasan Hall of the Music Academy.

Their discussion was on ‘Private Advice, Public Interest: Democracy and India’s Permanent Executive’ and Mr. Ramesh's latest book, ‘Intertwined Lives: P.N. Haksar and Indira Gandhi’. The event was organised by The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy.

Pointing out that elections were the only way for the citizens to make themselves heard in India, Mr. Ramesh, a senior visiting fellow at The Hindu Centre, also objected to holding simultaneous elections. “By supporting one election, one nation, you are denying yourself the ability to enforce some accountability on the executive. It is the debacle in successive elections in the last 12 months that made the current Prime Minister more aware of the concerns of farmers, the unemployed, the rural landless labour. If you had had one nation, one election to elect somebody, then you have no opportunity whatsoever of making your voice heard for the next five years,” he said.

Mr. Ramesh said that a Congress government would never roll back bank nationalisation, spearheaded by Indira Gandhi and her principal secretary P.N. Haksar.

Bank denationalisation

“Never. Bank denationalisation, the Congress party will never do.....It should not do. The denationalisation of banks is a recipe for economic disaster,” he said.

“We have to find a way to depoliticise appointment to banks. We must make the boards of public sector banks more professional and accountable. However, the experience with ICICI Bank shows that they are subject to the same pressures. So, this public-private sector debate in banks is a non-issue, as far as I am concerned,” Mr. Ramesh added.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Gandhi said the running theme of the book was loyalty: Mr. Haksar’s allegiance to the Prime Minister's position as well as Mrs. Gandhi. “Monarchs everywhere have had the boon of counsellors and the bane of courtiers....Counsellors are needed leaders who do not acknowledge their need. If counsellors give good advice, leaders may take it; sometimes not. They would not appear to be taking it; they would like to appear that they do not need any counsel,” said Mr. Gandhi.

N. Ravi, publisher of  The Hindu , quoted extensively from the book to talk about Mr. Haksar's many qualities. “The book is a celebration of the life and times of P.K. Haksar. It also raises questions that are very relevant to our present day. One question that arises is how a civil servant gained such power, influence and standing even if it were all for the good.....Is it at all possible for another super-civil servant to emerge? Is it even desirable? For, when civil servants have their codes and service rules, they lack a measure of democratic accountability,” said Mr. Ravi.

Source:  The Hindu, July 14, 2018 .

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