Parliament is deemed to be a place bubbling with transactions of national significance and it becomes worth concern if it coagulates, culminating into a fruitless nothingness.
This is what transpired this winter session, when the parliament had to witness an unfortunate frost, courtesy the heat waves triggered by the political tussle between the opposition and the ruling Congress over the demand of a JPC probe into the much notorious 2G scam. Swati Chaturvedi of Zeenews.com tries to find out from the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, the various facets of 2G scam including Radia tapes, the urgency behind stalling the entire session and whether Nitish is the next Vajpayee.
Swati: Parliament is a place to raise meaningful voices. But this winter session, for the first time, it had to witness a complete washout, due to your party’s unrelenting protests. Why?
Jaitley: Parliamentary obstructionism, as it is better called, is sometimes much better than the prevalent condition. When one is neck deep in mud, chaos is preferable to stagnancy. So, when we stirred a chaos, it was meant to bring in light the serious issues. It was because of the obstruction that enquiries ensued, raids were conducted, Raja stepped down, and Supreme Court started the much needed proceedings. Otherwise, people and particularly the media would have never understood the real strategy and intentions of the lobbyists.
I do deplore the 146 crore loss incurred due to the parliamentary logjam, but I am happy for, a whopping 1.76 lakh crore which was being swept under the carpet, has finally been brought out in the open.
Swati: SC says that 2G scam trails back to the NDA regime and that the enquiries must start from 1998. Do you agree that indiscriminately policies were laid during Pramod Mahajan days?
Jaitley: I have nothing to comment about specific persons. But I would like to mention three big decisions taken by AB Vajpayee’s govt.
First, we introduced revenue sharing, which brought down the previously high license fee, which in turn saw call rates plummeting from 16 rupees per call to a mere 50 paisa/call, thus bringing in cell phone revolution.
Second, additional WLL technologies were allowed and thirdly, when technologies started converging we brought in uniform license system.
Thus, these three decisions contributed a lion’s share to what is today called as ‘Telecom Revolution’.
I don’t have any objection whether they start the enquiries from 1993, 1998 or 2001, but the main focus should not be veered away from Raja.
Swati: If UPA is notorious for 2G, CWG and Adarsh society scams, then BJP too has its loopholes in the form of Yeddyurappa and mining scams?
Jaitley: There are few allegations but we have never tried to dodge inquiries or hide the facts. It’s been mere 2 months that the allegations have been planted and all sorts of probe, ranging from that of Lokayukta to that of HC court of inquiry, are underway; unlike 2G spectrum situation, when there was not an iota of action taken for three years.
Swati: You have been handed over the charge of Karnataka. Is there a clear cut plan behind it and is it reflective of the fact that BJP secretly admits the illegitimacy regarding mining plots?
Jaitley: I reiterate that we have never tried to evade any sort of probe. Enquiries are underway, and if allegations are proved we will take action.
Swati: Talking about the recent sensational revelations by Radia tapes, I would mention two big names from BJP that have surfaced: Ranjan Bhattacharya and Arun Shourie. Arun Shourie in his conversations is heard to be pointing at an intentional tampering with the order speech meant to benefit a particular industrial house. How true it is?
Jaitley: Way back in July 2009, when the budget was rolled out, we in BJP had pre-decided that Venkaiah Naidu will be the chief speaker. Many other requests for the post of chief speaker later started to pour in. Arun Shourie was one of them and thus he was appointed the second main speaker.
The truth is that, BJP had made up its mind not to let the issue of corporate dispute surface up during any of its speeches. We had determined not to allow any MP to even mention such issues. As far as order speech of Venkaiah is concerned, it in itself is a clear testimony of being untouched by any particular motive. Had there been an intention, there would have been a mention of corporate houses, which is nowhere to be seen in the speech. The speech just criticized the Congress budget. So, the allegations are completely baseless.
Swati: What according to you, Radia tapes basically are? What do they signify?
Jaitley: Radia tapes are not mere ‘Bazaar Gossip’. Radia tapes have done well to reveal the true face of various institutions of this country.
Firstly, it shows how, the editors and journalists were turning into powerbrokers. Secondly, it exposed how can a corporate lobbyist, on behalf of a particular industrial house, completely take over the system of policy formation and ensure that a specific individual alone, in a specific party is allowed to entirely engineer the policy that affects the whole nation.
Radia tapes revealed how the main bureaucrats in some of the vital institutions of the country can be made to work under the lobbyists who are trying to run a parallel government by networking.
Judiciary, media, politics, Cabinet formation and policy formulation – these all cannot be completely taken care of by either CBI, CAG, PAC or Supreme court. So, to scrutinize the health of these vital institutions, a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe is indispensable.
Swati: “Are you from Media or Radia”- this cliché has come to be the talk of the town these days. You have been known to stand for the media, as you also had taken up the case of Indian Express in past. So, how would you portray media of the present?
Jaitley: There are two categories in which media can be segregated. One is conservative conventional and old media. Second one is more proactive, aggressive, new media with both the electronic and cyber media playing a major role. The conventional values that decided how to maintain a threshold distance between media and politics or between media and corporate, have been lost, thus resulting in the whole system getting lopsided.
I think media should try to rekindle these lost values and learn to self assess.
Swati: What is your take on the recent Wikileaks’ disclosure about Rahul Gandhi’s concerns on saffron terror and the related reaffirmations by Digvijay singh in context of Hemant Karkare?
Jaitley: PM has described Maoists as the biggest internal threat. Cross border terrorism is another malaise that has been paralyzing us since last 20 years. Poverty and Kashmir issue are two other monstrous reasons to worry about. On the other hand, there have been just few fringe incidents in which Hindus might have been involved. It comes as a shocker to me then, how both general secretaries of Congress, managed to overlook all these weighty concerns and instead worry about Hindu extremism so much so they went on to comment on it in private to a foreign diplomat. This compels me to think how much does he (Rahul Gandhi) know about India? We are waiting since last 7 years to listen to Rahul’s noble ideas. If he found the issue important enough, he should have addressed the whole nation. What was the need to talk about it to US ambassador?
Swati: If we talk about Digvijay Singh, in the past too, his comments on Azamgadh and Batla House issues have raised eyebrows. Why do you think, such key Congress leaders keep coming up with controversial comments? Do you think it is a sort of strategy to divert the focus away from the main issues?
Jaitley: There are few queer personalities that you will find throughout the world politics. They constitute what is called as ‘institution of mavericks’. Such leaders give shallow comments to be in public eye. And as the issue gets popularized and few questions are raised, they managed to get away with ease after giving justifications. Being key Congress leaders, Rahul and Digvijay should speak sensibly. Their ambition in life should not be to be a maverick, but serious politics is what they should aspire for.
Digvijay Singh’s comments in the context of Azamgadh and Batla house reflect that his contribution to Indian politics is being more tangential than being real.
Swati: BJP has got some giant names to trust upon like Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Raman Singh and Nitish Kumar. Do you think, Nitish can be the next Vajpayee?
Jaitley: Besides the three names you have mentioned, there are several other veteran leaders in BJP’s kitty, each of them being a big leader with extraordinary talent. Unlike other parties, where hereditary priorities reign supreme, our leaders are entirely dependent on their own individual merits. We in BJP and NDA do not have dynasticism on display. Besides Nitish Kumar and Sushil Modi being two towering leaders in Bihar, we have other names like Chandrababu naidu and Navin Patnaik in other states on whose enormous expertise, BJP can count upon and each one of them is equally capable.
Although first among equals is not decided, Nitish does stand tall on expectations, having proved his mettle in Bihar elections. Bihar elections have proved at least one thing that RJD and Congress, have been unable to either understand or write down the election script.
The forthcoming elections will clearly witness a clash between merit and experience versus dynasticism and family glamour.
Adaptation: Supriya Jha