With the battle over Lokpal heating up, consensus on FDI eluding, and the Centre’s move to censure web content further irking netizens, Congress seems to be witnessing turbulent times. In a no holds barred interview with Swati Chaturvedi on her chat show Kahiye Janab, Sachin Pilot talks about the Lokpal impasse, Rahul Gandhi as future PM and the challenges faced by his party.
Swati: Why is every Congress leader avoiding media these days? All of a sudden, why have most Congress ministers become net nannies?
Sachin: Nothing has happened to us and there is no anger against media or anyone at all. See, I feel the policies of our party, the work which the UPA government has done in the past two and half years needs to be told to the common public. Whatever may be the people’s perception about the government, UPA’s achievements, welfare schemes and various initiatives should come into the knowledge of the common man. This, I think, has not been done properly.
Swati: You are right. Government and party’s policies should reach out to public, but of late the Congress seems to have developed two hallmarks - one is arrogance and the other is a sheer disconnect with people. Why is it so?
Sachin: No, there is no disconnect between the government and people or the party. Look at what all opposition parties, especially the BJP, has done in the past twenty or twenty-five years. The Ram Temple issue, Article 370 and the Uniform Civil Code, all formed the basis of BJP’s politics and after using these issues to its maximum advantage, the party abandoned them completely. The main opposition party is now doing politics in the garb of Anna Hazare.
Swati: At a time when the faceoff between the government and civil society continues, the Centre has proposed censorship of the social media. The government wants to censor everything, but will it help?
Sachin: See, there is no restriction on media here. It is free to function in its own way. The electronic media, cyber media or any other media enjoys complete freedom here... better than any other country in the world. It is also the government’s responsibility to protect the fundamental rights provided to the citizens by our Constitution. Nobody is talking about censorship. But if media does anything which hurts the sentiments of a person or a community, then there should be a system for proper redressal. There should be a platform for addressing such issues and registering complaints against such offensive or provocative content.
Swati: There was a lot of chaos over the government’s censorship move. Don’t you know yourself that it is not practically possible to regulate web content?
Sachin: See, government is not talking about censorship. All we want is that the entire media should behave in a responsible manner. If media refrains from doing anything which hurts the sentiments of people, then it will be good for everyone. Kapil Sibal ji has made it clear that the government does not want to impose any censorship on media. On its part, media should also refrain from putting offensive content since it also has a responsibility towards people. It can’t shy away from its social responsibilities.
Swati: Coming back to Anna, his token fast was supported by all major opposition parties and several leaders, including Sharad Yadav, also went there. Why is it that no Congress leader went to express support to Anna?
Sachin: In my view, all such political parties or their leaders, who supported Anna, are totally wrong. They are the same people who opposed Anna and said Parliament is supreme. It was not appropriate on their part to go there and express support to Anna since Parliament is in session. If they want a debate, it can be held in Parliament, which is such a huge platform.
Swati: Interesting isn’t it? You can debate with Team Anna in TV studios, but not in public?
Sachin: Debate in a TV studio is different from a debate inside Parliament, when the other party is so inflexible as to not allow the government to incorporate certain changes in the Lokpal Bill. Lokpal is such an important issue that if not taken seriously, it can lead to a lot of problems in future. Laws are not made on streets. We accept people’s right to protests, stage dharnas or criticize in a democracy. But holding a gun to someone’s head and asking him to pass a certain law is totally unacceptable. Anna initially used to talk about changing the system, but now he talks about changing the government. If it’s so then Anna and all those backing him should enter politics. Why is Team Anna silent on the issue of corruption in Karnataka, why they are not campaigning against Mayawati government in UP? Why is Congress being targeted every time? People have now realized their double-speak and this has hurt their credibility a lot.
Swati: The youth of the country wanted Rahul Gandhi to support Anna, but this does not happen. Why has Congress acquired the centerstage in fight against corruption?
Sachin: You (media) have also contributed a lot to this mess. It has been 40 to 45 years since Lokpal Bill was first introduced in Parliament, but no party, no government did anything. Why were no attempts made to table the Lokpal Bill during the NDA regime? Only recently, our PM stressed on the need to bring a strong Lokpal. We are giving it constitutional status. We are deliberating on it, incorporating various suggestions, but even then we are being ridiculed for not doing enough. This is a strange situation. The Congress party agrees with Anna in-principal that a strict Lokpal mechanism is needed to curb corruption. But why has Anna opened a full-frontal attack on the party and our government. He should be modest in his criticism…
Swati: You are talking about self-restraint but your own leader Digvijay Singh openly calls people as ‘cheats’, talks about team A or B, so why has the Congress forgotten self-restraint itself?
Sachin: Is he asking people to resort to violence. Is he inciting them to such things…?
Swati: You talk of decency but what Congress leaders like Pramode Tiwari, Jitin Prasad and others did at Rahul’s Phulpur rally is known to the whole world. Why did they beat up Samajwadi Party (SP) workers even when police was there?
Sachin: The SP protestors had broken security norms, and the Congress leaders were just ensuring safety of Rahul Gandhi but unfortunately things turned violent. But why are you silent about Anna saying “why only one slap” (referring to Sharad Pawar slapping incident). Why don’t you condone that also?
Swati: The rate of inflation is still high, prices of essential commodities are going up and fuel prices will be hiked soon, do you really think the Congress party thinks about the aam admi?
Sachin: We accept that the inflation is rising and the prices are going up. The situation is really worrisome, but we need to understand that our economy is not immune to developments at the global level. No government can do anything to reduce the fuel prices at the domestic level if the international prices of crude oil go up. Government finds no pleasure in hiking prices. Government tries its best not to do anything which is likely to have an adverse affect on our people.
Swati: It is being said that the FDI move was a play to divert attention from Lokpal?
Sachin: You have lot of conspiracy theories to float. Congress leads a coalition government and there are certain compulsions also. Pranab Mukherjee recently said that the FDI decision is being suspended till a consensus is reached on the issue among all those concerned. There is no victory or defeat in it. There is no dictatorship in a coalition government or in a democracy. One has to be flexible. One has to listen to all those involved in the policy decisions.
Swati: But will you disagree that there is a big divergence between Congress and its government on various issues?
Sachin: The FDI decision was not taken by the Congress party, it was taken by the UPA government and we are trying to take everybody onboard.
Swati: Why did Sonia Gandhi or Rahul never support the FDI move openly?
Sachin: The Congress party fully supports all decisions taken by the government.
Swati:: How? Silently? The party which introduced the RTI Act is now taking about censorship, the party which initially showed bonhomie with Baba Ramdev had put him behind bars. It says there has been no loss in the 2G scam and the CAG’s estimates are faulty. Why is there so much confusion?
Sachin: There is no confusion at all. The party and the government act according to the situation.
Swati: Don’t you think Rahul Gandhi should be made the PM to improve Congress and its government’s image in public?
Sachin: In my view, Rahul possesses all those qualities which one needs to become a Prime Minister. He is grounded and he functions in such a manner that he connects with the masses immediately. He has been working round-the-clock to improve the social situation and change people’s perception about politics. But who will become what and when will be decided by the party alone. However, in my opinion, he will fulfill people’s expectations and his responsibilities as PM (if he becomes) since he is fully aware of ground realities.
Swati: Don’t you think the Assembly Elections in UP will be a litmus test for Congress, especially Rahul Gandhi?
Sachin: It is not Rahul Gandhi’s personal battle. Elections in UP are important not only because Rahul’s constituency is there. He wants the state to progress and an improvement in people’s standard of living. All successive governments in the past 20 to 25 years have failed to do anything. Situation has deteriorated further in BSP’s misrule. So Congress wants people to realize that they have a viable option. Congress can be a better alternative in UP. Nobody fights to lose and we also want to form government in UP. That’s why our leaders are leading from the front.
Swati: One last question. It is said that those born with silver spoon always get a place in the front row in party’s hierarchy? Do you really think so?
Sachin: Those born with silver spoon or brass spoon don’t automatically get the right to enter Parliament. They get that from people only after contesting elections. Family name helps only in the initial stage, but one has to work his way up in the long run.
Adopted by Ritesh K Srivastava