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Chidambaram talks of "missed opportunities", says Ramdev is no Baba or saint

Monday, 28 April 2014 - 11:15pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: PTI

Union Minister P Chidambaram today said whatever happens on May 16, the day Lok Sabha election results are announced, will be a "direct product" of "critical" years of 2010-2011 which witnessed anti-corruption movement and lamented about "missed opportunities". The senior Congress leader also said whoever began to communicate is going to reap benefits in the elections. "It is quite clear that the critical years were 2010 and 2011. Let's not anticipate what will happen on May 16. Whatever will happen on May 16, I think will be a direct product of those critical years of 2010-2011.

"Looking back, it is very clear that opportunities were missed, looking back it is very clear that even the principal opposition party didn't see the opportunities in the 2010-2011. I think those were critical years," Chidambaram said.  The Finance Minister said this while participating in an interactive session with The Indian Express newspaper's Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta at the launch of the senior journalist's book "Anticipating India". Chidambaram said there were some more phases of Lok Sabha elections, so he could not really say anything to hit the headlines. 

"Clearly, 2010 and 2011, we (political class) should have communicated to the people of India. I think the disconnect between the political class and people grew and I think whoever ....began to communicate is going to reap benefit," he said in the programme attended by several dignitaries including his ministerial colleagues Salman Khurshid and Manish Tewari and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad. 

Chidambaram also hit out at yoga guru Ramdev who has declared a fight against Congress and UPA government after the midnight police action against him at Ramlila Maidan here in 2011 while staging a protest against corruption and on the issue of blackmoney.

 Asked about the incident of four senior ministers of the UPA government meeting "Baba" Ramdev at the airport and tried to persuade him by speaking of the government's initiative on corruption, Chidambaram said he is not a "Baba" and call him "Mr Ramdev." "I would comment on that sentence. I only wish you to drop the word Baba. He is no Baba..he is no saint...call him Mr Ramdev," the Congress leader said.

Asked whether the government could handle Ramdev's Ramlila agitation, Chidambaram said "I think the way it was handled was right except that last mis-step" a reference to police action against the yoga guru and his supporters. "We are still in government and we actors are still active in public life. I don't think it would be proper to disclose what happened in the process of decision-making. But clearly, there were two views on how we should treat that shibir.

"He was not conducting a yoga camp. He was holding a political show. He called it a yoga camp. There were two ways of handling it. I think the way it was handled was right except that last misstep," said Chidambaram who was the then Union Home Minister. He said the idea was to "quitely and quickly remove" the agitators from the scene. "I think the person in-charge goofed up that. And that led to a commotion. Only three people were injured. But it appeared that several hundred people were injured," he said.The senior cabinet minister, however, said it "exposed" Ramdev who fled the scene wearing woman's cloth.

 Chidambaram admitted that in 2010-11, the government did not communicate about the action it had taken to address the concerns of the people. "Government did not communicate what it was doing nor did realise the extent of anger that was building up. And for the principal opposition party, they did not see the opportunity either," he said.

When asked about a "new dawn" after the elections, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid asked whether the question was about a "new Don", in an apparent dig at BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. While predicting uncertainty for a some time, Khurshid said, "I don't see a new dawn. We are trying hard to see the 'Don' doesn't hang around too long." He also expressed hope that the UPA III will be able to form the government after the elections. "We are not going away. This is a promise. We are not going away," he said.  

When Chidambaram criticised the BJP's individual-centric campaign in the Lok Sabha elections, BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad countered it saying the victory of CPI(M) in Tripura is because of Manik Sarkar, the state chief minister. "A great change is happening in India. That is a very welcome development...that good performing leaders regardless of political ideology are being elected and reelected. "...Narendra Modi as a leader of BJP has generated a hope regardless people may have differ..The way the people are thinking about him is something extraordinary. How it will impact upon the results, just wait for the results on May 16," Prasad said.

Intervening in a brief debate on media, Chidambaram said, "Don't watch TV. All the TV channels, the TRP put together reaches less than 1 per cent of people of India. If we take them too seriously, I am afraid we make the mistake...," he said. Asked about the government's inability to achieve the predicted growth rate of 9 per cent, Chidambaram said, "We have not made any outlandish predictions. The fact is in 2004 and 2008 we did record 8.5 per cent growth. Subsequently we took like every other country in the world to anchor growth." 

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