“Achchey Din Have Arrived Only for Narendra Modi and Amit Shah” - The New Indian Express

“Achchey Din Have Arrived Only for Narendra Modi and Amit Shah”

Published: 05th August 2014 03:29 PM

Last Updated: 05th August 2014 03:29 PM

Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh talks to New Indian Express Editorial Director Prabhu Chawla on the issue of the Leader of Opposition, the similarities in BJP and Congress and Priyanka Gandhi on Sachchi Baat on News X.


PC: The stars are not favouring your party. Your own people are attacking you. Why?

DS: Stars and fortunes keep changing. 

PC: You lost the polls.

DS: We won the polls too.

PC: You won the By-polls (in Uttarakhand).

DS: Victory and defeat are part of a democratic set up. One party can’t keep winning. 

PC: Defeat happens at the hands of the public. You are being defeated by your own people.

DS: It’s the public that decides victory and defeat.

PC: I am saying something else. Your own people are attacking you. Someone in Kerala attacked Rahul Gandhi. Now Natwar Singh has come up with a book.

DS: It’s not a new phenomenon. We have seen the era of 1977. We have seen 1989 as well. Whenever Congress loses, only the people who have derived maximum benefit from the party raise their voice. 

PC: So people have ditched you.

DS: Say whatever you want to.

PC: Will Natwar Singh’s book have an adverse effect on the image of Congress and Sonia Gandhi?

DS: It’s not the first time that Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru’s family has been attacked. There have been attacks on Indira Gandhiji and her personal life. There have been attacks on Rajiv Gandhi. A lot was said about him in connection with Bofors. Has Sonia Gandhi not been attacked before? Accusations are a norm. It’s a family which has been in power for so many years. Not one accusation has been proven. Hence, their image will not be affected if such people raise their voices and accuse them.

PC: Natwar Singh says that Rahul Gandhi had said that Sonia Gandhi could be assassinated. Hence don’t accept it (the post of the prime minister). What’s wrong with that?

DS: There’s nothing wrong. It’s not about fear. It’s a fearless family. Why would they have joined politics in the first place? They would have refused to join politics. But they entered politics. Sonia Gandhi rejected the most powerful position in the world’s most powerful democracy. She made a sacrifice.

PC: Why call her the idol of sacrifice?

DS: She made a sacrifice.

PC: How is it a sacrifice if it was done out of fear?

DS: You must remember that the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Sangh have said that she wanted to become the prime minister but the President refused. Now, the next topic doing the rounds is that Rahulji asked her not to go for the post. These matters are being sensationalised to promote a book for free. I respect him for this. He is from an influential family.

PC: What is the reason? He is 83. He talks in fluent English.

DS: He was named in the Volcker Report. His name appeared in the Food for Oil Programme. It’s not a new phenomenon for the Congress to make the person facing accusations answerable. Natwar Singhji took the flag to protest. He challenged it. Then, he made an exit. Then, he went to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Now he with the BJP.

PC: Had he refused to give an explanation?

DS: I don’t want to go into that matter. I know one thing. Natwar Singhji has got everything from his relations with the Gandhi-Nehru family. Why was he quiet all these days? If he was so willing to take a courageous step, he should have done it when we were in power.

PC: You are saying that he has reacted after the change of power. Is he an opportunist? Is he a back-stabber?

DS: I am neither saying that he is an opportunist, nor a back-stabber.  He needed a topic to promote his book. He wouldn’t have got the same kind of promotion even after spending lakhs or crores of rupees. Also, don’t forget that his son (Jagat Singh) is a BJP MLA and that he had met Modiji before the polls. He is a Modi admirer. He is now part of BJP. Every father wants to do something for his son.

PC: Has he written the book to please Modiji?

DS: Perhaps. It’s a co-incidence. Sanjaya Baru sahab writes a book. The book also revolves around the topic that Manmohan Singhji had no rights and Soniaji had all the rights.

PC: Natwa Singh has even talked about the files being sent to Soniaji.

DS: Sanjaya Baru worked as the media advisor to the PM. Why was he quite until 2009 if he knew that the files were being sent (to Sonia Gandhi)? If it pricked his conscience so much…  

PC: He was not concerned with the files. A media advisor is not concerned with the files.

DS: How did he come to know that the files were being sent? I want to ask Sanjaya Baru… You are saying that he was the media advisor and didn’t know about the files. 

PC: Some other minister would have been sending the files. How would he know?

DS: Second point. Why did he not raise his voice then if it pricked his conscience so much?

PC: Would Natwar Singh take the diplomacy files?

DS: I don’t know.

PC: He had experience. He was a cabinet minister. He was a member of the working committee.

DS: I don’t know. I was not in the cabinet.

PC: But you are close to Soniaji and Rahulji.

DS: I am as close (to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi) as other leaders. 

PC: Natwar Singh claims that he is closer.

DS: He had family ties. I respect that. But of what I know of Soniaji, she has never interfered in the matters of the Centre. Yes, she made the Right to Information Act through the National Advisory Council…

PC: That was a government committee.

DS: The National Advisory Council would act upon the issues given by the government. It would work on those issues and gives reports. That’s on paper.  It’s on the record.

PC:  Did Natwar Singh get the fruit of serving the Congress? You said that he got everything because of the Gandhi family. But what about the treatment you meted out to him?

DS:  Like?

PC: Like he was dropped from the cabinet. The corruption charges were against many people.

DS: They were all dropped.

PC: Why was Ashok Chavan given the ticket?

DS:  Soniaji has never kept ministers in the cabinet after charge sheets have been filed against them. BJP keep them.

PC: I am talking about something else. Ashok Chavan got the ticket. But there were charges against him.

DS: There was a case against Yeddyurappa after he went to the jail.

PC: We are talking about the Congress here.

DS: You never objected when he was given the ticket.

PC: Everyone did. 

DS: There is no case against Ashok Chavan.

PC: Election commission had asked for an explanation. High Court put a stay (on the show cause notice issued to him).

DS: There is no case against Ashok Chavan in any court.

PC: Do you mean to say that anyone is the party who faces charges is made to resign?

DS: It is done through a procedure.

PC: Natwar Singh has said that there is dictatorship in the party. That the leader behaves like a dictator. She doesn’t want to listen to anyone. He has tried to create an image of Sonia Gandhi, and that she wants to control everything. Have you ever felt so?

DS: There isn’t anyone more democratic than Sonia Gandhiji. When there was Emergency declared in the 1970s, Natwar Singhji was in Congress. He remained in Congress. He couldn’t feel the dictatorial attitude of Indiraji then. Now he feels Soniaji has a dictatorial attitude. He cannot see the dictatorial attitude of Modi who became the PM and made Amit Shah the BJP president. What about the snooping incident and the Ishrat Jahan case? He sees the dictatorial attitude of Soniaji. It’s amazing.  

PC: Were you not unfair to Natwar Singh?

DS: Everything has a process. There is a disciplinary committee in the party. Action was taken within the disciplinary norms.

PC: What about the democracy within the party? You removed Natwar Singh. He wasn’t given any position in the party. Were you not unfair to him?

DS: He is not alone in the matter. Congress has always paid attention to the accusation made on the members. People have been kept secluded until they prove their innocence.

PC: The party has shrunk to 44 seats now. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are responsible for it. Are they not answerable? 

DS: We work as a team. From the party to the workers to the polling booth – we are a team. Everyone loses when the team loses.

PC: Shouldn’t the team leader accept his faults?

DS: The team leader accepted it. The vice captain accepted it.

PC: No one resigned. No one offered to resign. It’s a collective failure. 

DS: We consider it collective failure. There is the Antony Committee. It will hand over the report. We will prepare the road map according to the report.

PC: The Antony Committee has prepared eight reports on the polls during the last 11 years. What’s the outcome?

DS: The outcome is that we were in power from 2004 to 2014.

PC: You raised the issue of Amit Shah becoming the BJP president. How does it matter to you?

DS: Give me one instance where the parliamentary party leader and the party president were from the same state since their Jan Sangh days. 

PC: But there were prime ministers. Why can’t you tell us what the issue is (with Amit Shah becoming the president)?

DS: They have been the parliamentary party leader. They have been the opposition leader. Has the party president been from the same state?

PC: Yes.

DS: Who?

PC: Atal Bhiari Vajpayee from Madhya Pradesh and Kushabhau Thakre.

DS: Atalji fought from Uttar Pradesh when he became the Prime Minister.

PC: Kushabhau Thakre fought from Madhya Pradesh. He lost. Kushabhau Thakre was the party president.

DS: Kushabhau became the president …

PC: He was not in power…

DS: Yes, not in power…

PC: Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Leader of the Opposition.

DS: I don’t think so. Kushabhau Thakre had a stature.

PC: You are talking about principles. What do you want to say?

DS: I mean to say that “Achchey Din” have arrived only for two people— Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.

PC: You have also won the by elections of Uttarakhand. You want the Leader of Opposition. Can’t you run without power? Why do you love to be in the position?

DS: The office of the Leader of Opposition was created through an Act in 1998. The cut off is 55, the cut off for Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha is 10 per cent of the total strength of the respective House. Until there are amendments made to the Act, the Leader of Opposition will not have the perks and privileges. There were Acts that came after that. There was the Lok Pal Act, the act on CVC appointments (CVC Act 2003) and on CBI appointments, the appointment of information officers—the Leader of Opposition is the member of the (selection committee of these appointments). If the Leader of Opposition is not part of it, all the decisions on these positions will be made by the party in power. 

PC: But that’s the people’s verdict. They have not given you enough seats to have the Leader of Opposition.

DS: It was about the noble motive of keeping a leader of opposition in the selection of various appointments to ensure total impartiality.

PC: Right.

DS: We don’t want the position. We don’t want the perks and privileges. We don’t want the salary. But the selection committee for these appointments should have the leader of opposition.

PC: You are saying that the selection committee for all these appointments should have the one leader of the opposition, from the largest political party after the running party.

DS: I don’t know how true this. But I have heard that a DoPT (Department of Personal Training) circular states that in case there is no Leader of Opposition (in the selection committee) of these appointments, the leader of the largest opposition party would be present. We have no objection to it. 

PC: Are you demanding that the leader from the opposition party after the largest single party should have a presence in these committees?

DS: Yes, that’s what we are demanding.

PC: Are you not demanding for the Leader of the Opposition position?

DS: We are. But it’s not as important as this.

PC: So you want your people in there.

DS: If the Central government keeps the leader of the largest opposition party in the selection process without giving us the Leader of Opposition position, it doesn’t carry the same importance.

PC: You kept the Leader of Opposition and you went ahead with the appointments despite the objections.

DS: It’s not like that.

PC: Sushmaji had objected on the CVC issue. You had still gone ahead with the appointment.

DS: It’s a procedure. The ruling party does have the advantage. But the CJI (Chief Justice of India) is part of it.

PC: Alright. But even you had violated the spirit and the dignity of the Leader of Opposition.

DS: It’s not about violation. They had put the descenting note. The Opposition Party will have the right to put the descenting note.

PC: The Opposition will have the right to put the descenting note even if they are not present in the committee.

DS: How?

PC: They can oppose it in Parliament. You don’t have enough issues to raise in Parliament.

DS: We have issues every day.

PC: You said Gadkari has been snooped. They said he hasn’t been snooped. They said you don’t have evidence.

DS: The report came appeared in Sunday Guardian and News X. I have friends in the media. Vaibhav Dange, Nitin Gadkari’s secretary gave the news. He has got it printed in the newspaper.

PC: I am talking about issues in Parliament.

DS: These are big issues. Ved Pratap Vaidik went to meet Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan. He told the media there that free Kashmir should be a separate state and that Pakistan and Hindustan should support it. Had Digvijay Singh said the same, he would be in jail. Why wasn’t action taken against Ved Pratap Vaidik?  Is this not a big issue?

PC: He said that he is a journalist, hence he raised the question. 

DS: Does a journalist have the right to talk to that? Won’t Prabhu Chawla be charged with sedition if he said that same? 

PC: I wouldn’t say such a thing.

DS: BJP had demanded that Yasin Malik’s passport should be impounded. 

PC: You didn’t impound him. You gave him permission to go to Pakistan many times.

DS: We did. But BJP would make all those demands. The accusations are the same. Why haven’t they taken action?

PC:  You haven’t taken action against many people who have been speaking on Pakistan. Yasin Malik is one of them.

DS: This means that NDA and UPA have the same stand on Pakistan.

PC: Yes there is no difference.

DS: Do you agree?

PC: Yes. I agree.

DS: The public should understand that NDA and UPA have the same stand on Pakistan. That’s what you are saying.

PC: Yes.

DS: Thanks very much. I have been saying it since the beginning. Congress has always wanted good ties with India’s neighbours. But look at the statements of Modiji. He would always bring the issue of Pakistan during the Gujarat elections. He would bring the issue of Musharraf. He would bring the issue of Mian Kayani. But he flipped on the issue as soon as he became the Prime Minister.

PC: You are saying that “Achchey Din” have arrived for Modiji. Do you think he is making the right strides on the foreign policy?     

DS: He called the political heads from the SAARC countries. I support the move.

PC: I am asking for your holistic view on his foreign policy.

DS: We support the resolution on Gaza. Let’s see.

PC: You are making noise on Gaza in Parliament. Is it vote bank politics?

DS: Congress is not making noise. The UN and all nations have condemned it. The BRIC nations gave a unanimous resolution against it. You are saying that Congress is politicising the issue.

PC: The government’s stand on Gaza has been clarified with the resolution on Gaza. The foreign affairs minister has made a statement. Why the noise in Parliament?

DS: Statement came later. We raised it politically before that. The discussion had penetrated into Rajya Sabha. Look at the disconnect between the parliamentary affairs minister and the foreign affairs minister of the NDA government. The parliamentary affairs minister and the leader of the house told the secretary general they would take up the issue (of Gaza) during discussions. But the foreign affairs minister is clueless about it.      

PC: I think it reflects vote bank politics.

DS: Not at all. We have always stood up against violence. We have even spoken against the violence perpetrated by Hamas.

PC: Should Priyanka Gandhi replace Rahul Gandhi?         

DS: Every person has the right to enter politics or reject it. It’s a family matter. We should stay out of it. We should not interfere.

PC: Would Rahul decide? Would Priyanka decide?

DS: The Congress president and her children would decide. Will anyone stop Priyankaji if she wants to join?

PC: You won’t be able to stop her. True. But should she join?

DS: Why would I speak on it? I haven’t met her. I don’t know.

PC: Soniaji said that she would write a book in reply to Natwar Singh’s book. When is Diggy raja writing a book?

DS: I will.

PC: Thanks for coming to our studio.

DS: Thanks.

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