Karuna Shukla, niece of former prime minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, tells Ejaz Kaiser that the changed ‘chal-chehra-charitra’ of the BJP now stands exposed under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah
Karuna Shukla, 68, niece of former prime minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is the Congress candidate at the Rajnandgaon Assembly constituency — the home turf of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, who has won elections twice from Rajnandgaon. The ex-MP from Janjgir Lok Sabha constituency left the BJP ahead of state elections in 2013 and joined the Congress the following year. In a telephonic interview, Shukla speaks about her poll prospects and how she plans to snatch victory in the high-profile sea.
How do you see the status and future of veteran leaders in BJP?
There is no worthy place for senior respectable leaders who nurtured and built the BJP. As the BJP after Atalji has changed for what it stood for, my inner conscience didn’t allow me to continue further after working for the party for 34 years. To remain with the BJP and to compromise self-esteem has become unendurable. Only those who have vested interests and are willing to live through the humiliation can sustain themselves within the BJP now.
Poll in Rajnandgaon is going to be a big challenge as you are pitted against the chief minister who is in the fray for third time.
Actually, I am the challenge for the chief minister now. The poll contest against him is not a tough battle for me.
Raman Singh talks about development. How do you assess his 15-year performance?
Chhattisgarh has witnessed large-scale corruption. He did nothing substantial in Rajnandgaon even after representing the constituency for 10 years. But, he succeeded in getting his son elected to the Lok Sabha from here. There are some 36 Incidents, including the Jhiram Ghati Maoist attack, where no inquiry was carried out.
What issues does he face?
The state under his government witnessed massive corruption and flourishing commissions such as Rs 36,000 crore rice scam, and state selling liquor for revenue. Thousands of girls are missing. There has been no probe into the biggest ever Naxal attack at Jhiram. The actual needs of Rajnandgaon were ignored. The CM was once forced to exhort his party leaders to refrain themselves from seeking commission.
Are you comfortable with the Congress choosing you to fight the election from Rajnandgaon?
Indeed, as a committed Congress party worker, I am here to accomplish the mission. The trust and confidence reposed on me by the party cadres and the state leadership has overwhelmed me. Atalji’s niece will fight and win as ‘fakir’ (ascetic) against the resourceful giant.
What difference you see between Raman Singh’s and PM Modi’s style of politics in BJP?
There is no difference. The day when Atalji left active politics on the health grounds and L K Advaniji, Yashwant Sinhaji were left embarrassed, the changed ‘chal-chehra-charitra’ of the BJP now stands exposed. Now, Raman Singhji too followed the same path.
But, the CM eulogizes Atalji’s vision and contribution. BJP leaders have high regards for Vajpayee after his demise.
The BJP is politicising Atalji’s name merely for electoral advantage. As long as he was hale and hearty, they (the BJP leaders) benefitted from him. When he was ailing, Narendra Modi-Amit Shah took control over the party. BJP used Atalji’s name during his lifetime and after his death for gaining political mileage. It’s sad when we see some BJP chief ministers and several other ministers giggle and laugh during the tribute paying occasion of Atalji’s ‘Kalash Yatra’. One can gauge cultural ethos and the moral values of these leaders.
Your thoughts about PM Modi’s rule.
The nation is witnessing an undeclared Emergency where the media now has lost its freedom. The disparity over ‘Kathni’ and ‘Karni’ (words and actions) within the BJP has much widened after Atalji’s exit. It appears that even the liberty to breathe happily has been taken away.
How do see the BJP during Vajpayee’s regime and now?
The BJP led by Atalji, Advaniji had inherent practice of democratic values with explicit representative character. Party workers were then heard and given high opinion. Now Modi, Amit Shah is running the party like a private company where core values, ethos and envisioned principles are missing. Apparently, it’s more of a power politics now.