Speaking exclusively to Zeenews.com’s Swati Chaturvedi, on her chat show Kahiye Janab, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley discusses the leadership issue, Bellary brothers (Janardhana Reddy and Karunakara Reddy), Karnataka CM Yeddyurappa, upcoming Uttar Pradesh polls and twitter politics.
Here are the excerpts:
Swati: The Congress has removed all the ministers accused of involvement in scams – A Raja is in jail, Shashi Tharoor has resigned, CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) has been changed, (Suresh) Kalmadi is in jail. You are in charge of Karnataka. Why are you not forcing (Karnataka Chief Minister) Yeddyurappa to resign?
Jaitley: The basis of your question is wrong.
Jaitley: They (Congress) have not taken steps against these people voluntarily. The party defended them till the end. The Parliament was paralysed. They hid A Raja’s scam for three years. Only when the Supreme Court took over the supervision and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) started reporting to the apex court, a sort of impartiality came in the case. The party was endorsing the accused till eight months back.
As far as Karnataka is concerned, no chief minister, or office holder or functionary can be removed using findings by bodies such as police, Lokayukta, or court. There is no finding; just an accusation by a newspaper. His ground popularity is such that he is winning Municipal Elections, Panchayat polls. Should we remove a popular chief minister, just because Congress is accusing him? I believe that a party can take action, if there is any prima facie evidence.
Swati: You will agree that (Karnataka Governor) Hansraj Bhardwaj is God’s Gift to you.
Jaitley: He has a history of constitutional aberrations. In his entire career, he has been finding ways to impose Article 356 and take the charge himself. He is Hans`raj` but is always trying to take somebody else’s power in his own hands.
Swati: But till when? Yeddyurappa’s image in public has diminished.
Jaitley: The party will take a view on this if someone upholds a prima facie; but if a newspaper accuses, then it becomes difficult for any party (to act).
Swati: Take the instance of accusations against Bellary brothers and Yeddyurappa. Your party chief (Nitin Gadkari) had said he (Yeddyurappa) should not have allotted land to his sons. It is not a very shining example of probity in public life.
Jaitley: It is a custom to give a new MP (Member of Parliament) or a MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) a small plot in a state. When his (Yeddyurappa) son became MP, he was allotted a piece of land, which he returned in the wake of accusations.
Swati: Where do you see Bellary brothers fitting in BJP’s image?
Jaitley: There are no criminal cases against Bellary brothers. They are doing their business. Some blame them for environmental degradation and some don’t. It is up to the courts to decide. Party has nothing to do with this. They will continue to do the business if the court permits. And if the court bars them from doing the business, they would stop.
Swati: Why do businessmen like Bellary brothers and KD Singh get a space in politics?
Jaitley: I will answer this without taking any names. I feel the tragedy is that people matching the strength of politics are not entering into the field. Politics becomes business in case one lacks resources to lead one’s life. That becomes the reason for corruption. As a matter of policy of politics, this is a sad state of Indian politics. I have no regrets in admitting this.
Swati: It is almost a consensus now that the Congress has been the most corrupt government post Independence. Despite this, it is sad to see that the BJP has failed to emerge as a strong Opposition.
Jaitley: It is not true. The first half of your statement was right, but not the latter part. This government is not only corrupt but also ruining the economic management. Usually, the government has to face challenges in the third or fourth year, not in first or second year. But we have managed to put the government in the dock outside as well as inside Parliament. We have proved ourselves to be a strong opposition.
The recent polls were held in the states, which had parties like CPM (Communist Party of India) and DMK (Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam). We were not strong in those states, leaving Assam. In Kerala, Congress was expected to sweep the polls. The party had won 19 out of 20 Lok Sabha seats. This time, the margin was of just two percent.
Swati: How does this happen – because of the BJP or Amul baby?
Jaitley: I think there were two key reasons. First, the image of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) and Congress at Centre as well as in Kerala was that of being corrupt. And CPM leader VS Achuthanandan had carved out his image as being anti-corruption crusader. That is why in all the surveys, Achuthanandan’s popularity was high. When he managed to keep the difference with Congress so slim, it seemed that his acceptance level has increased. He was not disgraced even after losing the polls.
Swati: He was a hero of this election.
Jaitley: Yes. Second reason was that the UDF (United Democratic Front) in Kerala had taken the support of communal parties. Its repercussion was that the minority voted for UDF, but the majority community overwhelmingly voted for LDF (Left Democratic Front). So, the way in which we have nationwide vote bank, the Communists enjoy the same in Kerala.
Swati: Uttar Pradesh is scheduled to go to polls after eight months. Where do you see the BJP standing? In Maharashtra, farmers are committing suicide under Congress rule. Rahul Gandhi is trying to create another Nandigram from Bhatta Parsaul.
Jaitley: I believe the Congress is a crowd around a family. The party has no ideology, no consistency. They (Rahul and co) appear in 1-2 months and create a photo opportunity. Politics is a serious business. It is a serious job. It is not a chain of photo opportunities. He claimed he once travelled in a train, stayed in a hut, met farmers, went to meet Kalavati. A glance at the last three-four years makes one realise that he did these things and those photos became politics. It is not politics. Only sensationalism and photos are not politics. You have to work for the party, for the people, and that too consistently. Today, UP is waiting for the best challenger. The one who becomes so will get anti-Mayawati votes, anti-BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) votes.
Swati: It is sad that the BJP has failed to become the best challenger.
Jaitley: This is not so. BJP’s activities in UP have grown in the last two-three months. My personal study says that the BJP has started to gain the vote bank it lost earlier. Our incremental vote in UP is on the rise. I won’t say we have become a strong power, but if we actively oppose them on roads, not based on occasional sensationalism, then I believe the BJP can become the best challenger to the BSP.
Swati: Who is your leader there? People do not like to vote for the nameless and the faceless.
Jaitley: It is natural that we will choose our chief minister if we come to power. Many of our leaders are from UP. We will decide on our leader reasonably before polls.
Swati: People really want to know who is the new Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the BJP. If you won’t give a leader to people, why would they come to you?
Jaitley: I agree with you. Be it at the Centre or in states, our party is not for a family. I can count 8-10 names who are famous faces of the party. Today we are moving with a galaxy of leadership, and that is why it is not right to say that we don’t have talent.
Swati: Who is the supreme leader out of this galaxy?
Jaitley: We will decide on the face well in advance before 2014 polls. We are a structured party, not born out of a family. I am not in a position to comment on the name today.
Swati: Congress has a youth brigade. It is a country where 75 percent of the population is under 35… who are the young leaders of BJP?
Jaitley: Tell me four names of Congress’ young leaders, who are recognisable in public without their surnames. It is unfortunate. I believe that the Indian democracy will be strengthened when a farmer’s son, a common man, an educated person will rise to the top on the basis of his talent and merit.
The day dynasty politics and surname politics will end in this country, and when meritocracy will come, that day our democracy will be strengthened. You can paratroop such people and people with feudal mindsets do even accept them, but they do not stay for long. This country does not need surnames. If that were the case, Barack Obama would not have become the US president.
Swati: The session is about to begin. What will be BJP’s attitude after a lot of PAC (Public Accounts Committee) and JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee) politics?
Jaitley: When people used to assemble at Jantar Mantar, Congress termed it as against the democracy and parliamentary sovereignty. But if you (Congress) will do the same with parliamentary sovereignty and functioning, which you did with the PAC, then I believe you are motivating people to go back to Jantar Mantar and protest.
People are going to jail and you are not accepting the PAC report. You are pressurising the BSP and SP to align just because their leaders are under CBI scanner. The group against the PAC is the coalition of corrupt.
Swati: But Sushma Swaraj took a different stand on it in the Lok Sabha.
Jaitley: It is not the case. Our proceedings are coordinated in the Lok Sabha as well as the Rajya Sabha.
Swati: Won’t you join Twitter.
Jaitley: See, I am not on Twitter, I don’t have any blog. But I write articles in newspapers, upload on the party’s website. Each one of us has his own way of expressing. I have no plans to join Twitter as of now.
Adaptation: Kamna Arora