Amar Singh is the man of the moment. As general secretary of the Samajwadi Party, which has just pledged support to the United Progressive Alliance after the exit of the four Left parties, there has been much speculation on how this small but powerful party would influence the working of the government and the course of economic reform.
Nistula Hebbar and Siddharth Zarabi met him for an hour-long interview, interrupted only by one phone call from a leading UPA minister who was worried about whether Singh will be able to deliver the numbers for the coming trust vote at Parliament. A confident Singh laid his fears at rest, promising that nothing would go wrong. Excerpts:
Your party supports the UPA and says the Indo-US nuclear deal is in national interest. Do you also have an open mind on other reforms?
I am not anti-reformist. I think any change is full of challenges. You need a vision to make change. We will not be as dogmatic and rigid as the Left. We have our concerns, especially on foreign direct investment in retail. The party has strong views on that.
We are, however, prepared to keep an open mind on other pending reform measures that the government has proposed like raising FDI limits to 49 per cent in insurance and banking, and pension reforms. Similarly, opening up the atomic energy sector to private sector participation is vital, otherwise there will be no benefit from the nuclear deal.
I am reminded of the time when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh first initiated economic reforms in the country. Not just radical Leftists, but traditional industrialists lost no time in forming the Bombay Club and criticising him. Today those top 20 industrialists have vanished and a new top 20 have taken their place. It needs vision and for this we needed Manmohan Singh, an apolitical politician. In fact, I will not be surprised if a decade from now, those who are terming the nuclear deal anti-national would have reason to thank Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Image: Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav with party general secretary Amar Singh.
Photographs: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images
Also read: The Indo-US nuclear deal explained