Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab has been convicted for his role in the Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008 and awarded death sentence for the same, but senior BJP leader and leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, is not too hopeful about him being sent to the gallows soon. In an exclusive chat with Zeenews.com’s Swati Chaturvedi on Kahiye Janab, Jaitley shared his views on the Afzal Guru controversy, the IPL scam and much more.
Here are the excerpts:
Swati: Welcome to Kahiye Janab Mr Jaitley. Kasab has been awarded death sentence. However, people are apprehensive about him getting hanged soon. My question is, do people from outside India also have the right to seek presidential pardon? Will such a stage come for Kasab?
Jaitley: No, it’s not like that. It’s pretty clear that he (Kasab) committed the heinous crime. The judge’s verdict was apt. India’s judicial system is fair to everyone, so he will have the right to file mercy plea with the president. But I want to add that the Central government is being lethargic and delaying processing mercy petitions. It is taking upto 10 years to clear such pleas. The corrective measure should be to take back this right from the Home Ministry and set up a special body to dispose off such pleas within three to four months.
Swati: You were also the law minister (during the NDA government). Why didn’t you do it?
Jaitley: At that time, it didn’t use to happen this slow. But after the Parliament attack, there has been a queue and it is being argued that the mercy petitions should be disposed off in the order they were filed.
Swati: As a common Indian, it hurts when political parties like the Congress and BJP play politics over people like Afzal Guru.
Jaitley: We are not doing it. Is it politicisation if we say hang him (Afzal) as his review plea has been rejected by the Supreme Court. Vote bank politics is when you first don’t hang him and then use artificial arguments to justify it.
Swati: Kandhar happened during your government. Politicians treat this country so shabbily that they play with it. Shouldn’t there be unity?
Jaitley: There should be unity, and conviction is required for that.
Swati: Kandhar episode, Headley case send out a message to the world that we don’t do much to deal with terrorism. People are tired with this attitude.
Jaitley: We are high on terror radar. The impression that we are a soft state should end. Europe and America have liberal democracies but when it comes to dealing with terrorism, they are tough.
Swati: Just a few days back, the New York Times Square bomb scare incident happened and Pakistan has already arrested several suspects. We have the David Headley example, we have the mastermind, but still Pakistan doesn’t act.
Jaitley: It’s true that Pakistan and the US have double standards. Pakistan is helping America on its western border to fight terror, while on the eastern border it is helping terror to fight India. America is turning a blind eye to that. India will have to fight its terror war on its own. We don’t know how much the US is with us in this alliance against terrorism, and how much it is with its self-interest.
Swati: Shifting focus, why do politicians play with sports? Why do they cling to sports bodies for decades, some as long as for 24 years?
Jaitley: The question is not about politicians; it is about how sports is managed. In India, world class cricket infrastructure has come up over the past few years. BCCI has managed to achieve that because it is an independent body and doesn’t require financial support from the government. Unlike cricket, other sports are dependent on the government for finances. TV sports channels too don’t support other sports in the way they do cricket. At present, the controversy is about term limits. In BCCI, the president can only have one three-year term. However, other sports bodies say they are independent on deciding terms for officials. The government argues that if sports bodies want financial support, then it won’t allow officials to become dictators, an authority in themselves. What the sports minister said was reasonable. However, the government’s wishes need to be reconciled with sports bodies and the right time for it would be after the Commonwealth Games.
Swati: Cricket is a religion in India, and Sachin (Tendulkar) is regarded as our universal cricket god. Why do politicians who couldn’t even play first-class cricket enter the field as managers?
Jaitley: It is not necessary to have only players as managers. Only players should take up roles like coaches, selectors etc. However, efficient people from other fields too can be brought in as administrators and managers.
Swati: What does Arun Jaitley feel about the IPL controversy?
Jaitley: There are checks and balances in the BCCI and the board works according to the system. IPL is a sub-committee of the BCCI. A shortcoming has been detected in its functioning and the BCCI is probing it. Let’s wait for the probe to be over, hoping it would be done with utmost fairness, and I’ll comment then.
Swati: Did (Shashi) Tharoor abuse his position? He has paid the price but there are other people like him.
Jaitley: Tharoor backing a team for Kerala per se was not wrong but getting Rs 70 crore worth of free shares for his friend cannot be justified. Talking about the telecom scam, everyone including Congress members and Union ministers know the government lost out between Rs 63,000 to 70,000 crore in the 2G Spectrum sale. But they can’t do anything about it because of alliance politics. Even the prime minister can’t change the telecom minister’s portfolio.
Swati: You have a clean image. Do you think (Sharad) Pawar should become the chief of the ICC, the post for which he has been nominated? Also, has he fulfilled his responsibilities in the rightful manner?
Jaitley: I won’t comment on any individual here, all these are matters of probe. When the investigation is over, it would be right to comment only then.
Swati: Being a cricket lover yourself, can you assure the Indian fans that you won’t play with cricket?
Jaitley: BCCI is the most well-managed sports body in the country. Indian cricket by and large is in safe hands of BCCI. If any problem arises, BCCI has internal corrective mechanisms to deal with them.
Adaptation: Deepak Nagpal