CHANDIGARH: An atmosphere of dejection was prevailing among the people of the country, who were feeling let down by the unfulfilled promises made by the government, former Union minister Yashwant Sinha said today.
Sinha, who quit the BJP recently alleging that there was a "threat" to democracy under the current dispensation led by the party, hit out at the Narendra Modi government over a number of issues at a "meet-the-press" programme here.
Another disgruntled BJP leader, Shatrughan Sinha, was also present at the programme.
The former Union minister, who has been a vocal critic of the current BJP leadership and the government led by the party, had launched a political action group called the Rashtra Manch earlier this year to bring together politicians from across party lines to take on the ruling regime.
He today said the Rashtra Manch was a movement for the betterment of the country.
"There are many issues the country is facing today. When we interact with the people at the grassroot level, we find an atmosphere of dejection. People are dejected because the promises made to them at the time of elections have not been kept," the veteran leader said.
He added that in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Modi government would be judged on how much it had delivered on those promises and not on "what happened during Pandit (Jawaharlal) Nehru's or Indira Gandhi's or Manmohan Singh's time".
Sinha (80) said the current BJP was no longer the same outfit as it used to be during the time of leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani.
"I had never faced any difficulty while working in the party under them. However, in the past four years, I felt that the party's internal democracy was gradually coming to an end and it has become a puppet in the hands of two people, like the government too has become a puppet in the hands of these two people. This is not the party I had joined in 1993, this is not Atal and Advani's party," he said.
On the political developments post the Karnataka Assembly polls, Sinha said gone were the times when the BJP used to actually hold a moral high ground in such situations.
He added that former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Shanta Kumar had once recalled an incident from 1982, when Vajpayee had told the BJP leadership in the state not to stake claim to form the government, after the saffron outfit ended up winning 29 seats in the 68-member Assembly and also had the support of six Independents, as against the Congress's tally of 31 seats, lest the impression went out that the party was indulging in any kind of horse-trading.
"Today, what happened in Karnataka, everyone has seen. It was as clear as daylight that we (BJP) will have to indulge in horse-trading and in whatever way, get those MLAs (from other parties) to support us, in violation of the anti-defection law. Yet we were talking about moral high grounds. Is this the party of Vajpayee and Advani? It is not," Sinha said.
Referring to Shatrughan Sinha, he added, "You are absolutely right in saying that the two persons who control the party are nowhere near, either in stature or moral standings, when compared to Atalji and Advaniji."
Replying to a question, the former Union finance minister said, "I want to make it clear that Modi is not the issue. Nobody has anything personal against him. But we are witnessing certain trends in the country which are not healthy and that causes a lot of anxiety for the future of our country and society."
"The issues will prevail and not the individual. There are so many issues -- those pertaining to the farmers, youth, women, diplomacy and foreign policy, general economy -- there are so many."
Stating that the Rashtra Manch was getting a good response from the people, Sinha said, they were raising a broad-based issue of a threat to democracy in the country, which had arisen in the last two years.
"The threat to the institutions, values and conventions of democracy, which are very firmly established. Parliament, the Supreme Court, the Election Commission, the agencies of the government like the Income Tax department, ED (Enforcement Directorate) and even the media -- these are the institutions of democracy. If these are compromised, everything will be lost," he added.
Asked if a united opposition would be able to defeat the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Sinha said, "It is simple arithmetic. If you look at the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP, despite its 282 seats, had only 31 per cent of the votes. The rest had 69 per cent. If that 69 per cent unites and the anti-incumbency factor works on the 31 per cent, then the 69 per cent has better chances."
Pointing out that in Uttar Pradesh, rival parties like the SP and the BSP had joined hands for the Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls and so had the SP, BSP and RLD for the upcoming Kairana bypoll, he said the country's politics was witnessing rapid changes.
To another question on the country's economy, Sinha said he did not believe the figures put out by the Modi government.
Shatrughan Sinha too voiced his concern about various issues pertaining to the present dispensation.
"When some people ask me why don't I leave the party, I tell them that I had joined the party when it had two Lok Sabha MPs. But it has become essential to say now that this is not the same BJP, it has become the 'Modi Sarkar' today."
"I have not violated any party discipline, yet if they want to oust me, I will not challenge their wisdom, I will respect their decision," the actor-turned-politician said.
In an apparent reference to Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, he added, "Everyone knows it is a one-man show and a two-men army. One reason they are not showing me the door is that I have a clean image and have been winning elections by record margins."
"I want to ask that if I say demonetisation had adversely hit various sections of the society, particularly the poor, what is wrong in saying so."
The MP from Patna Sahib in Bihar said those in the BJP should be happy that at least someone from the party was saying so, "because if you look at the rest, they have become yes-men. They are in a state of terror".