New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday censured environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh for criticizing the home ministry with regard to Chinese investments in India and said it would not be advisable for cabinet members to make public comments on the functioning of their colleagues.
Referring to the Indian government’s refusal to clear the import of Chinese telecom equipment because of security concerns, Ramesh said on Saturday in Beijing that the home ministry was “overly defensive” and “alarmist”.
Ramesh’s comments are the latest example of dissonant voices within the ruling Congress party.
Difference of opinion: Environment minister Jairam Ramesh has been asked not to make public comments on the functioning of other ministers. Ramesh Pathania/Mint
According to an official in the Prime Minister’s Office, Singh categorically told Ramesh that there was no confusion in the government over its policies towards China.
“He told him that there were no China-centric policies,” said the official on condition of anonymity. “The government follows its general policy while taking such decisions.”
The official added: “He also said it was advisable for cabinet colleagues not to make comments on the functioning of other ministries, especially with regard to relationships with important neighbours like China with which we want to have constructive engagement.”
The Congress party, which said that it doesn’t approve of Ramesh’s statement, backed the Prime Minister. “We endorse and recognize the Prime Minister’s statement,” said Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi.
He added that it was inappropriate for ministers to air differences publicly even inside the country “while there are many forums inside the party and the government to express their views if they are legitimate”.
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pointed out that the Prime Minister has not taken action against Ramesh for his “unbecoming” comments against the home ministry.
“The comments of Ramesh in a foreign country, which were critical of the government, are highly objectionable,” party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar told reporters. “It is unbecoming of a Union minister. The Prime Minister owes an explanation on the internal squabbling,” he said, adding that the BJP would seek Ramesh’s resignation.
Some Congress party leaders said such incidents would cast doubt on the ability of the leadership.
“The Prime Minister is too gentle to rein in these ministers. It’s not good news at all,” said a Congress general secretary, who did not want to be identified.
Earlier, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh had criticized home minister P. Chidambaram’s inflexible approach in the government’s anti-Maoist policy.
Ramesh’s remarks came a day after Mamata Banerjee, railway minister and chief of the Trinamool Congress, a key ally of the Congress in the ruling coalition, had criticized the party for lack of transparency in its policies.
PTI contributed to this story.