Sandeep Dikshit

NEW DELHI: The new Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, on Friday advised the government to shun arrogance and panic while charting the country’s destiny over the next five years.

In his maiden speech as the Leader of the Opposition, he urged the government to be more consultative with political opponents and cautioned against the bumps that might appear in ties with the United States.

It was arrogance and panic that led to the U.S. travel advisory claiming that India faced a “high threat” from terrorism, he argued while firing the first Opposition salvo against the government on the Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address in the Rajya Sabha.

It all started due to the government’s arrogance which forced even those claiming a “high intelligence quotient” to act in a partisan manner by refusing to hold the Indian Premier League tournament in the country. India could easily have hosted one match an evening instead of creating an atmosphere of “national panic.”

Panic induced

“We had cautioned the government that it should understand the consequences or it will be clubbed with Pakistan,” said Mr. Jaitley. It was because of this government-induced panic that the Australian tennis squad refused to play in the country. “The government needs to realise that it must stop treating issues as purely partisan. It should rise to the occasion and not create panic.”

The BJP would support the government on terrorism if it departed from its occasionally soft stand and was totally committed to “zero tolerance.”

On ties with Washington, the BJP had repeatedly said it stood for close cooperation with the U.S. but was opposed to the nuclear deal being the only touchstone for bilateral ties. He saw three potential areas of divergence from the U.S. – the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, agriculture goods access negotiations in the World Trade Organisation and the issue of carbon emission norms in climate change negotiations.

He supported the government’s move to implement soon the one-rank one-pension scheme for the armed forces, thus conceding a long-standing demand from those “who secure the country and deserve not to be treated in a discriminating manner.”

The President’s address at certain places exaggerated the government performance, and the borrowing of a U.S. President’s political phraseology to promise a “new deal” to the farm sector did not impress Mr. Jaitely due to the record number of farmer suicides in the past five years, irrigation woes, low remunerative prices and the lack of potable water and electricity.

Urging a proactive role in helping Sri Lankan Tamils, he wanted the government to examine the consequences of the Sethu Samudram project before “mindlessly saying” that it has the mandate to implement it. “