Informally, BJP Says No Proof Against Cong Leaders in Agusta
What do you make of the AgustaWestland controversy? BJP is not serious. Informally, even they (BJP leaders) are saying there is nothing in it. The simple thing is, there was noise. Immediately, Manmohan Singh took the decision to cancel it (the deal for choppers). Whatever advance was given, that was also withdrawn. CBI inquiry was instituted. Three-four helicopters had reached India and that were not taken. If some monetary interest had been involved, how would they take all these actions? Who will pay money if the contract is cancelled? Those who are raising it are also fully aware of it. For instance, today (Thursday) in Parliament, they have not raised any noise. Just 5-10 minutes, and then smooth functioning started.
If BJP is not serious, why is it risking derailing this Parliament session? I don’t understand what exactly they are thinking. The gentleman who is supposed to take responsibility to make Parliament function properly is the parliamentary affairs minister. We don’t see that. During UPA days, practically day and night, the parliamentary affairs minister’s approach was to keep opposition in good humour. To resolve issues and see Parliament function. But here, there is no dialogue, no discussion. In Lok Sabha, the opposition’s strength is very limited. In upper house, they (government) are in minority. In such a situation they prefer to create some obstruction practically every day. Since yesterday and day before yesterday, when Subramanian Swamy got up, the House just collapsed. And they (BJP) deliberately encourage him to get up and say something. ing, practically in 15 minutes, to cancel it, instruct the CBI to go in depth and take action against some Tyagi or whoever. Quick decision was taken. The credit for that goes to Manmohan Singh.
How do you view the dismissal of Congress governments in Uttarakhand and Arunachal? The present government wants to destabilise the Congress. What Mr Modi has said about Congress-mukt India…whether that happens or not is one thing, but they are going in that direction. And wherever there is possibility to get some support within the Congress, they are jumping in. This happened in Arunachal and the same thing happened in Uttarakhand.
Do you think the Congress has reacted meekly to these dismissals? I don’t see the Congress reacting effectively. That is why the other side is getting dividends.
Is there a leadership crisis in Congress? The No. 2 (Rahul Gandhi)…if he is going to control the decision-making process… if that is correct, and this is what we hear from different quarters, indicates this kind of delayed reaction.
Is Rahul not an effective leader? Those in the Congress would be able to reply to this. Generally, in Parliament it doesn’t matter which side you are on; we know each other very well. But we don’t know him well at all. I have only met him twice in the last many years. But is he making an effort? I think he is the only leader in India who, out of seven days, five days he is travelling. I don’t know yet what the outcome of that would be. But who is travelling like him today? Anyone in BJP or Congress? At least he is going everywhere.
Has he changed of late? His approach seems to be to visit maximum places in India.
Where do you see the Congress headed in the next 5-7 years? As of today, Congress party’s position is not very good. Tomorrow, when BJP is losing and people are fed up of BJP, what is the alternative? Congress is the alternative. Secondly, what I have seen over the last many years is that practically in every village there are some Congress people. It might be old Congress families or freedom fighters’ families but some symptoms of the Congress are everywhere. That is not the case with other parties. Which is why with a discredited BJP, people would prefer Congress. Do you foresee Nitish Kumar assuming a larger national role? He is CM and has successfully managed the state. That has sent a signal that those who are unhappy with Congress and BJP want some consolidation. The signal is he is the person. Second, the general perception about him is that he is sincere, hard-working, pro-poor. That perception is going elsewhere from Bihar. I know him well for the last many years. He wants to concentrate authority with himself. The same was the case with Modi.
Do you think Nitish will be able to make that transition from CM to PM? As of today, if the opposition has to come together and provide an alternative, he is the number one name.
Not the Congress? Not the Congress.
Will NCP support Nitish Kumar? Generally, our approach will be to associate with a non-BJP set-up.
Why do you consider Nitish the most effective opposition leader? Because he is CM. He has the authority.
Does that mean the Congress under Rahul Gandhi is not as effective? Sonia enjoys more acceptability, including with other opposition parties. Some of us fought with her and we have seen the change in her. She is very accommodative.
Do you share Nitish’s view that the only way to defeat BJP in 2019 is for all other parties to come together? Ultimately, public at large (will decide). Suppose, in 2019, the BJP is on one side…and we have seen their performance in the last two years…definitely the voter at large would prefer some alternative. What is the alternative? As of today, the Bihar CM is a sort of cementing force for non-BJP forces.
What will be the role of Congress? Without Congress, it’s (defeating BJP) not possible. Even with Deve Gowda, Congress supported him to become PM.
Will Nitish be more acceptable than Rahul in 2019? This will depend on how Rahul performs over the next three years.
What do you make of the controversies over ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ & JNU? I don’t see any impact on the field. People laugh when you bring this issue up. When Kanhaiya Kumar visited Bombay and Pune, there was tremendous interest among the youth. The attendance and response to his programmes were good. That indicates unhappiness about the government.
Do you think the government turned him into a hero? Definitely. Otherwise, what was he? I could not understand why the government of India should take such interest in one institution. Do you know the name of the student leader in Bombay University?
What do you think prompted the government to do so? Immaturity. (laughs)
In cases involving Ishrat Jahan and Karti Chidambaram, the government seems to be going against P Chidambaram. Why do you think this is happening? Well, suppose they go against him, what political impact will it have? (Laughs)
What do you have to say about the Shiv Sena and the BJP? The Mumbai corporation elections will be the breaking point. Shiv Sena and BJP will dissociate and there will be a bitter fight. BJP’s efforts will be to control Mumbai city. Shiv Sena will never divest the control of Mumbai Mahanagar Palika to anyone else.
What is your assessment of UP? Mayawati will form the government in Uttar Pradesh. How do you view Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party? I only know Kejriwal because of Anna Hazare. He was created by you people.
What role do you see Kejriwal playing in national politics? Nobody knows Kejriwal.
He may win Punjab… Sun rahe hain (I have also heard so). (Laughs). I feel, if the Akali government is discredited then Amarinder Singh will form the government.
The court has ordered IPL matches to be shifted out of Mumbai... They told us yesterday that you have to shift your games elsewhere. We will shift them. Reason? Drought. In Maharashtra, the government has declared drought in certain districts. It’s not there in Mumbai or Pune. We are using recycled, drainage water to maintain the fields. Matches may have shifted but we still have to maintain the grounds. (Smiles).
What are your thoughts on the Vijay Mallya controversy? His father, Vithal, was a friend of mine. One day Vithal introduced me to his son and said he (Vijay) is very dynamic. But there is one problem with him. Suppose he knows he is getting Rs 1,000 at 12 o’ clock, by 10.30 he would spend (Rs) 1,200. (laughs).
Should Vijay Mallya come back to India to face the law? If I meet him I would definitely tell him.
Is the government unfair to Mallya? They should have taken initiative in this, which they have not done.