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Swadeshi outfits want government out of WTO

RAJESH RAMACHANDRAN

Monday 18 August 2003, by RAMACHANDRAN*Rajesh

Article paru dans le Times of India, ?dition du 18 ao?t 2003.

NEW DELHI: The Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) and allied organisations have decided to hold a "mahadharna" at Ajmeri Gate in Delhi on September 2 asking the government to get out of the WTO.

"Our demand is that the government should get out of the WTO. The impact of the country’s compliance with WTO policies is visible on farmers and jobless youth. We will hold a mahadharna to make the government see reason," says Virendra Singh, SJM convener for Uttar Pradesh.

Though SJM is the organiser, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) and the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) will also participate in the `Quit WTO’ dharna, to be addressed by their founder and veteran RSS leader Dattopant Thengadi. But all this seems to be more for public consumption than influencing government policy.

Behind the scenes, the leaders of all three organisations, which are "fighting" the government over WTO, have been holding consultations with the government and have given their suggestions and received "assurances" from commerce minister Arun Jaitley on the Cancun WTO conference to be held next month.

BMS resident secretary R K Bhakt said the BMS and BKS representatives had met Jaitley almost six weeks ago and sought an aggressive line on subsidies in the agriculture sector. "Our relationship with the political leadership would depend on the government’s stand in Cancum," said SJM national convener Muralidhar Rao. The SJM is yet to meet the minister, said Rao.

According to sources, the organisations appeared to be more pragmatic in private discussions than in public rallies. Apparently the Sangh outfits are satisfied with the outcome of their talks with the government.

Asked whether the Sangh affiliates have met him to discuss the Cancun WTO conference, Jaitley told The Times of India that "leaders from BMS, BKS and SJM have been meeting me separately".

The large left-of-centre political space on economic issues has always been the RSS’ greatest challenge and the Sangh had done its best to make inroads into this space. Thengadi’s public protest against foreign investment in the insurance sector in 1998 was projected as the reason for the government’s decision to scale down FDI in this sector.

Similarly, in 1999, there was another rally again asking the government to quit WTO. In early 2001, at a huge BMS rally, Thengadi called the then finance minister Yashwant Sinha a "criminal". And a two-month nation wide yatra against WTO, that ended on June 14, was flagged off by Thengadi.

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