In­for­mally, BJP Says No Proof Against Cong Lead­ers in Agusta

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics -

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.

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