Former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha has slammed the BJP for treating every election as a matter of life and death, and asserted that the time for the Modi government to perform is over.
In a free-wheeling interview, the former BJP stalwart has also warned that in 2019, the people will judge the government on its own performance and not that of the UPA.
What significance do you attach to the Karnataka elections?
The Karnataka election and every election, unfortunately, has become a huge issue because of the importance attached by the BJP. You win some, you lose some, that is part of electoral politics. But to invest maximum energy in every election as a matter of life and death, which should not be the case, to win, I think the whole approach is anti-democratic.
Now, why is the Karnataka election important? Because we are talking of a Congress-mukt Bharat. You have a Congress government in Karnataka. So, how could it be a Congress-mukt Bharat with the Congress in power in the state? So, the Karnataka election has become very important. And if the electoral result is not in favour of the BJP, then it would be seen as a huge loss, as was the case with by-elections for a few Lok Sabha seats. So, that will have great significance as it would determine people’s perception about the winnability or otherwise of the BJP.
There is much talk over holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and Assemblies. What’s your view?
This is all total bakwas (nonsense). Anyone who understands the Constitution and its provisions will say that this is not possible. Either you have a parliamentary form of democracy or you go for the presidential system. Then only it could become possible. Otherwise, how would an Assembly continue when the government of the day loses majority on the floor of the House?
It has been in the nature of our Constitution that Parliament and state Assemblies would go separate ways. The spirit of the Constitution mandated this. Under the parliamentary system, it’s impossible to have simultaneous elections.
The June 10 Bharat Bandh call seeks farmers’ loan waivers, which some see as an unviable solution to the issue of agrarian distress…
All across the country the condition of farmers is bad. There should be a one-time farmers’ loan waiver… Besides, all kinds of taxes levied on farming tools should be removed. Thus, we would be able to reduce input costs. And, minimum support price (should be hiked one-and-a-half times, as promised in the Budget, and it should be determined… by taking into account depreciation of machines, capital and labour costs. Once this happens, farmers won’t need further assistance.
Do you think farmers’ distress could be an election issue in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, from where violent agitations have been reported?
Yes, it will be a potent issue in the state polls and also in the Lok Sabha elections. The results of the Karnataka election will set the agenda for Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, and they in turn will set the agenda for 2019 for the simple reason that it’s the BJP which is the ruling party in these states.
What has been the response to your appeal to BJP MPs to speak up?
Not yet. My appeal to BJP MPs… has not yet met up with any response. But as we go nearer to the elections and once they realise that they won’t win or they won’t get re-nomination, they may change their minds.
The Modi government is completing four years. What’s your assessment for the NDA’s last year?
The time of this government is almost over… The fact is that no government takes tough decisions in its last year. And we are already in electoral mode. The Prime Minister is spending five days a week campaigning in Karnataka. God alone knows how many rallies he will address in the three states going to polls later this year… So, the time for performance by the government is over. I am not expecting anything dramatic to happen in the next 12 months.
Second thing is that we have clearly wasted the mandate of 2014... The style of functioning of the government is such that if truth is inconvenient, put the truth under such wraps that nobody will ever get to it. If statistics is inconvenient, then change the whole system of calculating statistics. Look at the current debate on employment. So, you cherry pick figures... This is giving a completely distorted picture of the economy… in terms of growth or any other indices. Why did the labour department come out with employment data in the past? But the government said it may not collect the data. So, now NITI Aayog, which is a captive of the government, is compiling the data. Somebody has said that NITI Aayog, instead of behaving like a think-tank, has become a septic tank.
Telangana Chief Minister K C Rao is networking with regional outfits for a political alternative to the BJP. What’s your view?
I would not like to comment on it at this point of time as there are many players around with their own fixed ideas... these things are highly sensitive and should be worked out behind closed doors.
It’s being said that the Opposition doesn’t yet have the political narrative to counter Modi. Do you agree?
The Modi government’s performance… is not judged with respect to the performance of the government that has been voted out. So, the comparison cannot be with the UPA or with Jawaharlal Nehru or Indira Gandhi. You have to take into account today’s circumstances. So, we have to forget… that the UPA did this and that. The people have punished them. So that judgement is over. Now, they will sit in judgement on the Modi government and they will judge against its own promises... So, good governance would be judged.
In fact, reports suggest 300 infrastructure projects have shown a cost overrun of `2.13 lakh crore. Is that a sign of good governance? Why don’t we have a Solicitor-General for nine months?... The society has been seen communal flare-ups. Then rapes are taking place... horrendous cases of rapes and murders and somewhere the party (BJP) appears to be an apologist for people accused of crimes. Where is clean public life? Bank frauds have come one by one. They will not go away in times of election.
The Budget was passed without debate. What’s your expectation from the remaining two final sessions of Parliament in the light of piling up of legislative business?
Not very much. Why I’m looking at this with a sense of despair is because the government itself has clearly shown that it cares two hoots for Parliament. Look at the way the winter session was shortened because of election in one state (Gujarat)... The first part of the Budget session was the shortest ever… just four days. This is scandalous to the extreme. Every day in the second half of the Budget session was sacrificed.
Where was the attempt on the part of the government, and especially the Prime Minister, to reach out to the Opposition?... In the case of UPA, Pranab Mukherjee was the trouble-shooter. Today, is Rajnath Singh playing that role? Is Sushma Swaraj playing that role? Is Arun Jaitley playing that role?
Most important function of the Lok Sabha is to determine whether the government of the day is in majority. But there have been motions of no-confidence against the government… And which party had been disrupting Parliament? A party with which you (BJP) have cosy relations — the AIADMK. Parliament has been reduced to the level of the worst-performing state Assemblies.