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Uproar in RS Over Inconsistencies in Govt Statement on WTO

New Delhi
File - PTI Photo/TV Grab

Congress today created uproar in Rajya Sabha and targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his remarks that the previous UPA government sacrificed the interests of the poor at WTO and demanded a clarification from him in the House along with a discussion.

Accusing him of "belittling" Parliament and "misinforming" people on the issue at a time when the House is in session, Congress members attacked Modi for "contradicting" his own Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on the matter.

The House saw two adjournments on the issue during Question Hour as Congress created uproar saying there were inconsistencies in government statements on WTO though Finance Minister Arun Jaitley asserted there was no contradiction.

Modi, while addressing the BJP National Council on Saturday, had accused UPA of sacrificing the interests of the poor at WTO by signing an Agreement and claimed that the new government had on the contrary stood firm on food security issue at the recent Geneva round of talks.

Attacking Modi for his remarks, Congress member and former Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said, "We cannot allow a situation that Prime Minister of the country will try to belittle and misinform when the House is in session."

"The charge against us is made by none other than the Prime Minister of India. It has to be clarified because it misleads the country. It is the Prime Minister of India who has contradicted his own Minister. He should come to the House and explain," he said.

Digvijay Singh (Cong) joined him in questioning why the Prime Minister has contradicted his own Minister who claims there is no change in the government's stand at WTO.

"The Prime Minister has made disparaging remarks against the previous government," he said, adding that the Commerce Minister has stated that the Government has not deviated from the previous government's stand.

"He must explain. He is contradicting the Minister," he said, as the treasury benches reacted saying he cannot cast aspersions on the Prime Minister.

As Congress members repeatedly talked about contradiction in Sitharaman's statement and Modi's remarks, the Commerce Minister said, "Let us not give room for any kind of distortion...PM's comments are very much in the background we have discussed."

She said the previous government had not moved for four years on the Peace Clause in the WTO agreement and "left it hanging", adding, "It is important to read the Prime Minister's statement in that context."

On Congress leader's remarks that she had said there was no deviation made by NDA government at WTO from the previous UPA government, she said, the agreement signed to by the previous regime was "not a perfect one" and Sharma, who has been a former Commerce Minister, has admitted it "gracefully".

The Minister said she had only stated in the statement that her government was not renegading on the agreement signed at WTO by UPA and was only doing course correction.

Sharma, however, objected to the use of "Peace Clause" phrase, which he claimed is not formal and is used only colloquially in the agreement. He said the Prime Minister's statement has created confusion which needs to be clarified.

"It is a distortion to say that the entire Bali Agreement was not a perfect one. There is no Peace Clause. There is an interim agreement...It is not hanging," he said, claiming that UPA had re-negotiated the Uruguay round talks at WTO.

Jaitley earlier said his party BJP had in December last year raised inconsistencies in the pact the previous UPA regime had signed in WTO meeting in Bali and it stood by it.

"There is no contradiction in what the Commerce Minister and the Prime Minister have said," Jaitley said in the House.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Prakash Javadekar said there was no difference and the Prime Minister had said exactly the same thing as Commerce Minister.

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Later, attacking the Prime Minister over the issue at an AICC briefing, Anand Sharma said that the remarks made by Modi were "untrue and misleading" and "negated facts".

"It is a matter of shame if the country is found to be ignorant on such an issue in the eyes of the world... Food security has never been a part of the agenda. India never accepted it at WTO or any multi-lateral forum because it is a sovereign space and sovereign right.

"We did expect the Prime Minister to be well informed and literate about these matters and not to make a statement which will actually shock the entire world about his lack of knowledge," he said.

Demanding that Modi give an answer to the Upper House, Sharma charged that the PM wanted to "shield himself by putting the ministers in front".

"BJP and its apologist ministers need to be reminded that there cannot be any perfect country-specific solution. My challenge to the Prime Minister and the government is that they should reject the Bali agreement if they think it was wrong," he said.

He said that there were no negotiations in Geneva as all negotiations were over in Bali.

"The next (round of) negotiations will be at the Ministerial Summit and they are trying to confuse everyone. They have got a new English book, which says that interim means 'something is hanging'.

"I do not need to learn English from Modi and Jaitley. A wrong statement has been given knowingly for political reasons," Sharma said.

"They are behaving so arrogantly in a multilateral organisation, for what? Since 1995, nothing was done, they also had Commerce Ministers from Murasoli Maran to Arun Jaitley. So, for Modi to say that we surrendered. On the contrary, we fought tenaciously, we forced the issue," Sharma added.

Later, attacking the Prime Minister over the issue at an AICC briefing, Anand Sharma said that the remarks made by Modi were "untrue and misleading" and "negated facts".

"It is a matter of shame if the country is found to be ignorant on such an issue in the eyes of the world... Food security has never been a part of the agenda. India never accepted it at WTO or any multi-lateral forum because it is a sovereign space and sovereign right.

"We did expect the Prime Minister to be well informed and literate about these matters and not to make a statement which will actually shock the entire world about his lack of knowledge," he said.

Demanding that Modi give an answer to the Upper House, Sharma charged that the PM wanted to "shield himself by putting the ministers in front".

"BJP and its apologist ministers need to be reminded that there cannot be any perfect country-specific solution. My challenge to the Prime Minister and the government is that they should reject the Bali agreement if they think it was wrong," he said.

He said that there were no negotiations in Geneva as all negotiations were over in Bali.

"The next (round of) negotiations will be at the Ministerial Summit and they are trying to confuse everyone. They have got a new English book, which says that interim means 'something is hanging'.

"I do not need to learn English from Modi and Jaitley. A wrong statement has been given knowingly for political reasons," Sharma said.

"They are behaving so arrogantly in a multilateral organisation, for what? Since 1995, nothing was done, they also had Commerce Ministers from Murasoli Maran to Arun Jaitley. So, for Modi to say that we surrendered. On the contrary, we fought tenaciously, we forced the issue," Sharma added.

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PLACES: New Delhi
TAGS: WTOBJPParliamentUPA
SECTION: National
OUTLOOK 11 August, 2014
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