Monday, September 26, 2011

Teekhi Baat with Shanker Singh Vaghela on IBN7/September 24, 2011

Mr Shanker Singh Vaghela, the state Congress leader had held an hunger strike to counter Gujarat chief Narendra Modi's harmony fast dismissing Modi's Sadhbhavana fast as political drama.


video

Interview with former Gujarat Chief Minister and Congress election campaign committee chief in the state Shankar Singh Vaghela on Teekhi Baat for IBN 7

Excerpts:

PC: You have recently completed fasting, cleansed from inside, in the pink of health, good mind, fasting means this, isn’t it.

SV: For cleansing the spirit, the tool which Gandhiji used, and we also did. We did pray in Gandhiji’s ashram, for cleansing our spirit, and for the cause we are fasting, their spirits should also be cleansed somewhat. To generate empathy in the minds of the people of Gujarat regarding what we are saying, that be proved right.

PC: There is a fashion of politicians fasting these days. Have they become so unclean, that they feel like cleansing their spirits, is that the case?

SV: That is not the way to do a fast, every fast has a cause. Why does one fast, you can ask us why did we do it, then we will say what did the government fast. In India, or all over the world, the person who is running the administration, without any reason, if there is any reason then it is another matter, but when there is no reason, then also they observed a fast. That too for marketing, that too in a five star atmosphere, advertisement of 100-200 crores, on this fast..

PC: What you are saying is fine as you are in opposition, hence will say such things. My question is, there is a saying in Hindi, ‘Guru gud rahe, chela shakkar ho gaye’. That means became better than you.

SV: It is a good thing.

PC: Modi was your chela, you got him into politics. He knows how to do marketing well, you don’t.

SV: Guru- Chela word is not right, he was a subordinate.

PC: You got him into politics, you made him run ahead.

SV: Sure, I got him (in politics), when I was president, he was general secretary. We were a good team, were working well, nothing wrong in it. Not as Guru Chela, whatever one’s capability was, he was working as per his and what way I thought right, it was working that way.

PC: So, you feel now that he defeated you in politics.

SV: I don’t want to go personal.

PC: Winning and losing happens all the time in politics, isn’t it?

SV: It happens all the time.

PC: In today’s day, he has defeated you.

SV: Sportsman spirit means, winning or losing, one must digest losing as well as winning. And there is nothing wrong in it, this is sportsman spirit.

PC: One has a feeling of being proud, an a man who has been president, if he starts aping his chela, starts copying, then people joke about him afterwards.

SV: Please see that is not copying.

PC: Why did not you do some new thing?

SV: It is not about new thing, this was not copying. Prabhuji, I want to tell you that why did the government fast.

PC: Karunanidhi fasted; I can count names of ten more chief ministers who observed fast.

SV: There was a reason, was a reason, everybody had a reason, it may be against the central government. Here you tell me one reason, any damn reason.

PC: He said ‘sadhbhavna’, which means in our country, the divide and rule which was happening.

SV: He would have done it.

PC: But he said he was doing it for 6 crore gujaratis.

SV: All is sadhbhavna from years; he remembered it after ten years. Till now, where this sadhbhavna was lost.

PC: No, in politics, things are remembered on time. When elections come, it is remembered.

SV: He would have done it at opportune moment, may stunt-baazi, marketing would have happened. Something would have happened, but is this the reason, it is not public cause. Fasting should mean self cause and public cause. What is the clear cut meaning of this fast, he should tell one, one, reason why did he fast, one reason.

PC: He gave the reason that he is fasting for his gujaratis, 6 crore gujaratis, regarding whom central government, or the whole propaganda that is happening, the gujratis who have faced troubles, who have been victimised, for that I am fasting, for the asmita for 6 crore gujaratis, and their progress.

SV: Its fine, CM bungalow may be air conditioned, here in Gandhi Nagar, a town hall is air conditioned. What was the need for spending 100-200 crores of rupees, without any reason, spending public money?

PC: I agree with your point, but why was the need for you to ape. You had not planned it earlier.

SV: There was not plan.

PC: They had planned it earlier.

SV: It was not aping, we had said that this fast, when he is fasting, even we in the proximity of Gandiji’s ashram, sitting on the foot path, spread the message to people in and outside the country, that this is reality, in which number one, why did you fast? If you did, then why by spending Rs. 200 crore, and if it is marketing, then please tell that it is marketing.

PC: Modiji is an expert in marketing..

SV: It is a good thing, do it.

PC: He marketed Gujarat all in foreign countries, what US used to say, this is bad, that US think thank says this is very good.

SV: This is wrong.

PC: I am talking about think thank, US Think Thank, they have written a report

SV: It is not written

PC: House of Representatives have written

SV: No, no, it is blot and a big lie.

PC: Please tell me one thing, when decided on doing a fast, have you spoken to any of the central leaders, or you did it because of your own will.

SV: A man does a fast himself. I did not ask my party high command. I asked our colleagues, they said that we also would sit together with you. Our PCC president Arjun Modhawadia was also present.

PC: Arun Modhawadia came with you.

SV: It was not even our party function, there was no party symbol there, no party flag there, it wasn’t even a party sponsored programme, we party people were there.

PC: But the question is, like in Modiji’s support all central leaders came, all chief ministers came, but nobody came for a senior leader like you. Nor anybody gave a statement later

SV: No, there is no question of that happening; it was not a party function. We had not said anything, there was not for marketing, it was also not that somebody would come from outside and praise us. I we would have wanted it, Hon. Prime Minister would have come, if we had wanted Madam Gandhi, in spite of her ill health would have come. This was not a party programme.

PC: Was it Shankar Singh Vaghela’s programme.

SV: No, on behalf of people of Gujarat. We were certainly sitting on the behalf of people of Gujarat.

PC: Which people of Gujarat, when speaking of people of Gujarat, you do believe in democracy, am seeing you for so many years.

SV: Certainly, I do.

PC: The person who the people chose would represent the people of Gujarat, till you don’t defeat him.

SV: That’s ok. That’s ok.

PC: What people were there for you.

SV: That is another issue. You and get people and make them sit inside, that way a crowd can be gathered anywhere.

PC: Shankar Singh Vaghela is also an expert in gathering crowds.

SV: No, we money..

PC: You magic is over now, is it.

SV: There is no question of the same, please see that should be from the heart.

PC: From their heart, are people not with you?

SV: People are, many people are supporting in a goo manner, you would have seen the crowds. People had come, and that to without spending a single paisa. Whereas, here they sent so many luxury buses, Rs. 400 worth food, inside you are fasting, outside mishtan is being cooked, what is the meaning.

PC: But don’t you feel, like as you said now, that it was not a Congress function, that it was your own function.

SV: Not my own.

PC: Meaning on behalf of people you decided, the people of Gujarat who are not with Modi, those will stand by you. But don’t you feel Shankar Singh Vaghela, a very senior leader, who was a chief minister, minister at the centre, even after that you were given no post by them, so you would have an appeal and recognition. People are known by the post they hold. Congress party gave you not post.

SV: There is no question of any post, I am the 2012 election campaign committee chairman, there were talks of president too, it is not that I have not been offered. But election is in 2012, I am the chairman of the campaign committee now. I don’t like that a man be known by his post. He should be known by his work and whatever he does, that is good. Post may be there today, may not be there tomorrow.

PC: If a person is known by his work, many times when the talks about Shankar Singh Vaghela are going on, he himself could not win his own election, how will he get a electoral victory for the Congress.

SV: Please see, even Indiraji lost an election, Atal Behari Vajpayee also lost, Advaniji never used to stand for Lok Sabha elections, it is we who got him here and he stood for Lok Sabha. That is a different issue, winning elections is not the criteria of public life. Jaiprakash Narayan, for the full life, Gandhiji, for the full life, did not participate in vote politics.

PC: But you yourself lost an election, but under your leadership elections were fought in 2002, after that in 2009 were also fought, you lost both.

SV: Might happen, might have happened, losing and winning is a criterion. Man studies, gives exam, passes, even fails.

PC: Every time he fails, two times (you) have met with failure

SV: Two times have not failed.

PC: Two times (you) have failed.

SV: No, no.

PC: 2002 and 2007

SV: In 2002, when assembly elections were to happen, that time..Godhra, 2007, Mian Musharraf and Sorabuddin, full Gujarat was divided in minority and majority, Hindu and Muslim, emotions were provoked.

PC: Speaking of provocation, even you can provoke

SV: No, no

PC: Even about you things were said regarding appeasement, to make Muslims happy.

SV: No, no question of that, it is automatic, there is no appeasement. Those people were in trying to appease who did not wear the cap, if you did not have to wear the cap, then why you called.

PC: No, will not wear cap, all of you who wore cap did not say no…he does not get into doing appeasement, his whole agenda is clear,

SV: I have doubt, caps were bought from the market, bohra brothers, come wear caps, call your wives in burqa. That means Muslim community was called specially. The whole party was involved and when party fell short, the police was involved. And, the police used lathis, then why you had called. And when somebody comes, he wants to felicitate you. Talking about felicitation, brother- brother will wear on pagdi, Rajput – then another pagdi, if any other community – then the third pagdi,

PC: Yes, in our country, different communities wear different caps.

SV: if there is a Muslim – then their cap. If they wear then why does not he, then why did he call. What brand you had to develop.

PC: What you want to say.

SV: I want to say, when you talk of appeasement, that is happening there, please see that.

PC: Now talking of appeasement, Muslim reservation is being talked about, that minorities should get reservation in corporate sector, in jobs, is this not appeasement, why did not you think of it in the past 60 years. Congress party was in power for the past 47 years, then why didn’t you remember reservation for minorities.

SV: From where did SC/ST reservation come.

PC: That was written in the constitution.

SV: For how many years it was there.

PC: It was for 10 years.

SV: It is going on, from where OBC (reservation) come, it wasn’t there.

PC: Yes.

SV: It came.

PC: Yes.

SV: So, there are poor people in Muslim community who don’t even get bread to eat. For them, in a special case, their education, jobs for them, they will get bread, what is wrong if the government worries about this.

PC: Modiji gave a slogan, ‘saabka saath, saabka vikaas’ , this is his slogan, isn’t it

SV: Give any slogan, what happens by giving a slogan.

PC: It is an inclusive slogan that I want to take everybody together,.

SV: It is a good thing.

PC: there is no politics behind this

SV: Without politics no work is done.

PC: There are slogans in politics, and then what you are doing is also politics.

SV: Our slogan,

PC: Congress ka haath sabke saath.

SV: We try after that, here words are used, issue over.

PC: You have no objection to ‘ Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas”

SV: There is no question of that, if it is used in the right manner.

PC: Development has happened or not in Gujarat.

SV: It has not happened.

PC: Planning Commission is your government.

SV: Certainly, it is.

PC: Their figures are released, that Gujarat has seen the most growth among all.

SV: No, it is a wrong.

PC: Didn’t they say?

SV: May or may not have said..

PC: No, they might have said, or they have not said it.

SV: They have not said it. Planning Commission has said there is good growth. In Gujarat, before this, till 16 per cent..

PC: In some era

SV: It means that it is not right to say that only in his time development has been done.

PC: No, no from the time BJP government has come, three terms have been done, it has been the most, and before that the state was on number 3.

SV: See, that happened during their rule. During our rule, it was number one, number two. And 15 year old man…

PC: Then you were in a different government.

SV: becomes 17 year old, he gets beard, grows muscle, 17 year old grows to be 20 year old, that is development, natural development.

PC: Ratan Tata, who had given some adverse comments on Modi when 2002 riots had happened, now he is in his line. Maruti, which is 50 per cent owned Government of India’s is now in line.

SV: What is it for the business community, if you get free, 10,000 crore without interest loan for 30 years, then who will not come. One will be a Donkey if he does not come here.

PC: Shankarsinghji, in your time and before that the Congress did not give land to any industry.

SV: No. Land was given, not this way, was not distributed.

PC: Was it given in West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh.

SV: It was given all over the country.

PC: Has the centre given it.

SV: Has given, but should not give it for free by alienating own people. Here there were grazing lands, government land, all of which was given.

PC: But government on development, people will get jobs.

SV: No, this way will not get.

PC: Which government who has not given land to industrialist till today.

SV: Tata Nano was made, please tell me what benefit Gujarat has, has he given employment to one lakh people.

PC: In addition to jobs, you will get tax.

SV: Nothing, where does tax come.

PC: You will get local tax, excise, sales tax.

SV: Will the Gujrati get Maruti for Rs. 15,000 less.

PC: According to you, should Tata not have come.

SV: No, no, let anybody come, come on your own terms.

PC: Till now what benefit did the state get.

SV: Nothing.

PC: Does that mean they should not have come.

SV: Tata got benefit, what did we get.

PC: It means Maruti should not be given land now.

SV: Let anybody take, but the state should get benefit.

PC: The state should get the benefit.

SV: Not in terms of revenue

PC: But they will also generate employment.

SV: Gujarat government levies the highest VAT on petrol, revenue is generated, what is the meaning of then. Inflation rises; you are troubling farmers for state’s revenue.

PC: Why the farmer here is quiet, while there in UP, he is ready to face bullets, here the farmer must be happy.

SV: Here 7000 farmers committed suicide, in Gujarat, do you know.

PC: 19,000 committed suicide in Maharashtra.

SV: May have done, there might be a reason there. Even here there is a reason.

PC: Many did in Andhra.

SV: May be, there may be a reason; here also there is a reason, that means what you say that the farmer does nothing.

PC: What does the farmer foes not stage a dharna, like in UP

SV: In Gandhi Nagar, Kisan Sangh, which is of RSS, they were sitting some days ago, they did dharna, all over Kutch. All over Gujarat, there is hue and cry among farmers. Farmers do not get electricity.

PC: Please tell me one thing, why you are so much against Modi, is it personal.

SV: Please see, I am sorry Prabhuji, I am personally not against. On his birthday, wished him publicly, please see, personally, we have no rivalry. Neither I want to do any personal character assassination. One must not get personal in politics.

PC: The whole world is agreeing that development is happening here, you are saying development didn’t happen. You say corruption happened..

SV: Yes, it did, I give two examples. Rs. 1.30 lakh crore debt on the people of Gujarat, when a boy is born he is born with the debt on his head. 10 lakh people are unemployed, there is not enough power.

PC: How much was the unemployment when you were the chief minister

SV: There were six lakh, from which employment was given to one lakh people,

PC: How much population increased since then?

SV: out of which gave employment to a lakh. Gujarat government has not given employment to one lakh people.

PC: Do you know how much load the public of India have one them

SV: May be.

PC: Central government has taken how much loan

SV: May be

PC: Since your government has come, three times loan has increased on the public.

SV: May be, for development.

PC: For development it needs to be done.

SV: For development, but please ask them where did this money go.

PC: When we talk of corruption, many times it is a political issue. When you were the chief minister, the Congress government has levelled memorandum of corruption against you.

SV: Certainly, they had.

PC: And even now it is in record.

SV: Certainly.

PC: Then was it politically motivated or not.

SV: See, we people had gone to the Lokayukta.

PC: No, no was that politically motivated or not.

SV: There may be politically motivated allegations. In reality when it is diverted to Lokayukta, then Lokayukta gives a clean chit that it is baseless allegations of corruption. We faced the Lokayukta, that time, the Lokayukta was appointed in consultation with BJP, then Soni saab was there, we went to him.

PC: That time it was your government, you were in the BJP then, then

SV: No, I wasn’t.

PC: After that you became chief minister for a year.

SV: No, it was not that, I was not chief minister then, after that I went to the Lokayukta. That time I was not CM. The question is why you are scared of Lokayukta. And CAG levelled a Rs. 26,500 crore allegation against him, CAG did, we didn’t. We have levelled of one lakh crore, that is different, we have given it to the Hon. President. But the CAG has said that give the account details of Rs. 26,500 crore, there have been corruption. And let anything happen, if you are no theif, don’t accept bribe, do let anybody accept bribe, and if you are not corrupt, then why are you scared of Lokayukta. Why?

PC: Please tell me one thing, after CAG report, your Delhi Government, CAG’s ambit is not to see corruption, here you are saying that they have asked explanation of corruption. Even there people are asking accounts from you every day.

SV: There after demanding accounts, there is action, this is the difference between the BJP and the Congress. If anything happens concerning us, we act. Chavan (referring to former Maharasthra chief minister Ashok Chavan) was removed from Mumbai, Kalmadi went inside, Raja went, Kanimozhi went, and there may be somebody who may go.

PC: From other parties many people went, only one person from your party went.

SV: No, no, let anybody go.

PC: Chavan is sitting where he was.

SV: No, he ceased to be CM.

PC: He ceased to be CM but you saved him.

SV: See, what happened, Lokayukta in Karnataka.

PC: He was removed, he went, after Lokayukta said.

SV: When? How? What happened in Uttranchal

PC: Even he was removed.

SV: That too how, when you act, when thing public opinion will go too negative, you will die..

PC: I want to state the point made by you again, I will ask you once again, why did you lose 2002 elections,

SV: Hindu – Muslim…

PC: why did you lose 2007 election

SV: Bhaiiya Musharraf and Sohrabuddin. ..Hindu Muslim..

PC: Communalisation happened..

SV: Certainly,

PC: You don’t think Soniaji has said ‘Maut ka Saudagar’, because of it that happened.

SV: Certainly not, she said absolute correct thing.

PC: Now that you are starting from Ashapura, and what you are doing here, are you going to be Hinduwadi, will you start canvassing for elections from Hindu temple like Rajiv Gandhi did from Ayodhaya.

SV: Certainly can do, by birth, I am Hindu. By name, I am Hindu..

PC: And you are proud to be Hindu.

SV: See, everybody is proud of his religion.

PC: No, I am asking you.

SV: Even we are proud of ours. Muslim, even he is proud of his, nothing wrong in it. That, which was done that time, because Navratri, in Gujarat for bhakti of mata, and 2012 elections we are seeing may happen 6 months earlier. Hence, we are short in time, so there we took mataji ke darshan and taking the blessings.

PC: You announced election rally that time.

SV: We announced election campaign

PC: And you started from the temple there.

SV: Our first day, after mataji’s darshan, Bhuj, Kutch,is the epicentre of the corruption of the government.

PC: I mean to say that the second you are starting from Ambaji.

SV: Starting from Ambaji.

PC: Hence, the election campaign committee, of who you are chairman, that will start campaign from Hindu temple, this is a transformation, your heart transformation.

SV: Between to Mataji, there is Haji Peer on Pakistan Kutch border. Haji Peer, after Mataji’s darshan we are going for Maththa tekna at Haji Peer.

PC: It is on the way that is why.

SV: If anything is left, tell, we will go to Jains Palitana also, Sardarji’s Gurudwara also, Christian’s Churches also.

PC: How many seats will you win, now that elections are being fought under your leadership, how many seats you will win?

SV: How should be there in majority those many will come.

PC: Will you become chief minister.

SV: I don’t think, party will decide.

PC: But you are a candidate

SV: No, I have completed my personal ambition, let anybody in centre, CM but majority should come, BJP’s government should go, for this we are going to work.

PC: You will call Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi for campaign. Their former campaign was not successful.

SV: Everytime, everything should be successful, that is not necessary. That is why when the time of election comes, developments happen, Rahulji will also come, Soniaji will come, our other leaders will come.

PC: Do you think, Rahul came last time, but you were not successful, you said you lost because of Mian Mussharaf, and because of some other reason.

SV: Please see, success if not decided by an incident. Where Rahul went, success happens, somewhere we lose also.

PC: He went to Bihar, there also you lost.

SV: May be possible.

PC: Went to Tamil Nadu, there also you lost.

SV: Our CM saab of here (Gujarat), went where, even there also they lost, and Bihar CM said Nooooo

PC: We will not call you

SV: That pravesh bandi (no entry )is being done, at our party such a thing is not there, Rahulji ..can come any time

PC: If Gujarat’s chief minister, is become Prime Ministerial candidate, what objection do you have.

SV: Where, who said.

PC: People are saying he is Prime Ministerial candidate

SV: Voters will decide party will promote whom.

PC: Your good wishes should be there for somebody to be Gujarati Prime Minister.

SV: Our Gujaratis, who are from Congress,

PC: From Gujarat one time Morarji Desai became

SV: Vajpayee sahab bane

PC: Vajpayee sahab is not Gujarati.

SV: That is another issue..even Advani sahab.

SV: He was our representative.

PC: So, don’t you think a pucca Gujarati from here should become Prime Minister, you should give good wishes.

SV: Good Wishes, when the likewise result comes ,will give, but now without any reason, this marketing, in the name of fast, the wasting of money of the people of Gujarat, Rs. 200 crore, I don’t thing from anywhere sadhbhavna will be generated among people. In people durbhavna has been generated.

PC: I am asking last question to you, people say that even big leaders from the party are not with you. It is ok that they want to keep you with them. Because you are a old time RSS man, hence your influence may be not as strong as original Congressmen. Because, originally Congressmen influence is there because they thing their in house person is always good, outsider is bad. It happens in every party, even in Congress. Hence, Ahmed Patel made candidate stand against you,

SV: Didn’t do.

PC: Somebody else did. Do you thing central leaders are with you fully with their heart.

SV: See, due to grace of god, in India, let it be any big leader from any party, I have personal house visit relations. In Congress, Soniaji, Rahulji, Ahmed bhai, PM, Pranab Babu, whoever is there, all general secretary, with everybody, personal relations are there, they regard us so much, have so much trust. And this trust only will work, they said by any ways, you get our government in power. With full confidence, including Madam Gandhiji, that is why we say that Madam please come and get us to do varna.

PC: Will you take sanyas if you lose elections for the third time.

SV: Will not take sanyas, and will introspect what happened, but what you are saying is not going to happen now.

PC: No, am asking by the way, from both sides, whatever will happen, the public will do, neither you or me can do.

SV: It is true, but will not take sanyas this way. Not being active in politics is one thing, not being active in public life is another. Anything may happen but

PC: Will you be active in politics or no.

SV: That will be seen at that time, at that time it will be seen. I don’t think…I had said earlier that I will retire from politics early, not today, three four years ago, but had put a clause that after dislodging BJP government.

PC: No, now your son has become old, is fighting elections and winning, hence his number will come after you.

SV: No, don’t believe in that parivarvad, his merits…

PC: He will win on his own.

SV: Will win it is fine, otherwise, we will not be pushing him.

PC: But after losing also you will be in public life.

SV: Yes, I am there and will be.

Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard /September 25, 2011

Between the Lines Wicked Leaks Saga is Collective Irresponsibility

If one goes by the antics of our politicians during the past few months, it seems Indian politics will soon be made compulsory reading in social science studies in all universities. It is a fascinating study in the Art of Impossibilities. Those who wrote the Indian Constitution laid down the principle of collective responsibility for all members of the Union Cabinet, including the Prime Minister. But now what we are witnessing is a new democratic mantra of collective irresponsibility: no one is held accountable and punished. Not a day passes without a minister in the UPA government blaming another one for inane wrong doings or committing administrative improprieties. Some of them even accuse their colleagues of taking decisions which could lead to criminal culpability. The latest round of note-leaking involving Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P Chidambaram on the highly sensitive 2G Scam reflects the growing pass-the-buck tendency among even those who are considered to be the UPA government’s most productive assets. Both had earlier been in the news for the wrong reasons. While Pranabda suspected that he and his trusted aides were under electronic surveillance, Chidambaram was hurt by unsubstantiated insinuations made against him. But there seems to be some method behind this so-called Cold War between the two giants who owe their political rise to two generations of Gandhis. Mukherjee was discovered and promoted by Indira Gandhi and he became the most powerful Minister of State for Finance ever, during the Emergency. Chidambaram, a wealthy and well-spoken Chettiar advocate from Tamil Nadu, was patronised by Rajiv Gandhi. Coincidentally, there is also a similarity between them. Both left the Congress party briefly to join or promote their own regional parties. But the reasons were different. Mukherjee left because Rajiv ignored him. Chidambaram joined the Tamil Manila Congress only after Prime Minister Narasimha Rao implicated him in a stock scam. While Mukherjee has always seen himself a strong contender for prime ministership, Chidambaram does not nurture such an ambition. In fact, there was strong speculation about Mukherjee making a strong pitch for the top job soon after Indira Gandhi’s tragic assassination, which was nipped in the bud by the then President Giani Zail Singh who swore in Rajiv without the formality of even a formal Congress Parliamentary party meeting.

Political observers are now trying to find the genesis of the undeclared war between the two leviathans, which has led to a dangerous erosion of the Government’s authority. What baffles the Congress party veterans is the finance minister’s use of petty and middle-level officials to fight his proxy war. Even in the chewing gum controversy, it was a coterie of junior finance ministry officials that implanted a fear psychosis in Pranabda’s mind. He first hired a private detective agency to investigate and later wrote to the Prime Minister, instead of taking his colleague Chidambaram into confidence. The Prime Minister worsened the situation by asking the Intelligence Bureau to give its report directly to the PMO, and not to the home minister. It was obvious that even the Chief Executive of the country wasn’t aware of the concept of collective responsibility. At that time, Pranabda described the entire bugging episode as a non-event and made fun of the media.

Things haven’t changed. A lowly factotum writes a verbose note on 2G policy, making indirect comments about former finance minister Chidambaram’s role in the scandal and sends it to Pranabda through proper channels, for his eyes only. It is then dispatched to another joint secretary in the PMO. Finally it finds its way to the media through an RTI activist. Never before in the history of Independent India have Union ministers sought a certificate of good conduct through widely leaked official correspondence on controversial issues. Earlier, it was work done that spoke about the performance of each. But now, written words against each other differentiate the bad from the worse. Pranabda and Chidambaram aren’t the only ones to be caught in the Leakstorm. Others like Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister of State for Industries Ashwani Kumar, Telecommunications and HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai, Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily as well as senior law officers of the Government have been in the headlines for writing or speaking against each other, or for making controversial statements. Unfortunately, the art of governance has taken such an ugly turn that it is the posture of denial than the grace of owning up a mistake that has become the parameter of permanent political success.

prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com

Race Course Road/The Sunday Standrad Magazine/September 25, 2011

PM's Frequently Flying Ministers Do NY Duty

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is known for unlimited levels of tolerance. So much so, that he allows his ministers not only to skip Cabinet meetings but also to derail one another. Bills and important economic decisions have been postponed because of vociferous objections from just one minister. Now, the Prime Minister has allowed colleagues to earn extra air miles by frequently travelling abroad on one pretext or the other. Last week, over half a dozen ministers were in the US on various official missions. Besides the Prime Minister himself, others spotted in New York include Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, Minister for Heavy Industry Praful Patel, Minister for New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who was present along with another member. A couple of senior government officials like Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon were also around. An official accompanying Manmohan joked: “Why should the Prime Minister appoint someone else to handle his responsibilities in his absence from Delhi, when all ministers are with him in the US?” Jokes apart, many ministers who aren’t even part of economic diplomacy have been merrily defying the Prime Minister’s advice to avoid unnecessary foreign travel; in June 2008, the PMO had issued a missive to all ministers in this regard. Obviously it has had no impact because the total government expense on foreign travel exceeds over `200 crore so far. Manmohan repeated this order again in August 2010, which has been ignored with even greater impunity. These frequent fliers are becoming a big headache for Indian diplomats, as they have to organise everything from cars to hotels. Hundered vehicles have been hired by our missions in the US to ferry powerful VPVIPs (Very Powerful Very Important Persons) so far. But the Prime Minister is helpless since he needs their support to stay on in office.

Suffering DMK Tries Solo Ride

If senior DMK insiders are to be believed, a frustrated M Karunanidhi, former Tamil Nadu chief minister and DMK paterfamilias, has revived contact with Congress President Sonia Gandhi after her return from the US. But he hasn’t got a positive response about an early end to daughter K Kanimozhi’s woes yet. This has led him to question the UPA’s motives behind letting DMK ministers and leaders suffer, both at the Centre and in the state. He has joined the ranks of other allies who suspect the Congress is out to defame its regional partners by witch-hunting them. With over a dozen former ministers and MLAs in jail on charges of land grabbing, Karunanidhi appears to have lost all patience and is now willing to bite the bullet. His decision to dump the Congress in the Tamil Nadu Municipal Elections is meant to test the waters. If the DMK does fairly well, it will set the tone for finally ditching the UPA. Since Karunanidhi doesn’t expect any support from the Centre, he would like to further weaken the coalition led by Manmohan Singh.


Jaya Puts Manmohan to N-test

If ministers can dictate terms to the Prime Minister, powerful chief ministers can’t be far behind. After West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, it is the turn of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa to show her political clout. And she hit the UPA where it hurts the most—a Russian-made nuclear energy plant in Tamil Nadu. It is for the first time that the Prime
Minister’s resolve is being sorely tested in the southern state. In 2008, he risked his government for nuclear energy’s sake. Of late, many people have been rising in protest against the construction of N-plants in various parts of the country. These protests were promptly silenced. Apart from Tamil Nadu, in other states, too, all voices against setting up nuclear power plants were quelled through force—for example, Jaitapur in Maharashtra. But when villagers from Koodankoolam in Tamil Nadu went on a fast against nuclear power, not only did the state government support their demands but also refused to take any action. Jayalalithaa then demanded that work on the site be stopped and asked the Prime Minister to send one of his ministers to deal with the agitators. She hasn’t withdrawn her own objections to the plant. Now, the Nuclear Suppliers Group is watching the outcome of the standoff between the Prime Minister and the chief minister with great concern. The outcome will decide not only the future of many multinationals trading in power plants, only but also the Prime Minister’s control over the states.

Babus Deal With Yatra Fears

Though law and order is a state subject, it is the Central government which is losing its sleep over the series of political yatras beginning during festival season next month. According to known plans, nationwide yatras led by Anna Hazare, L K Advani and Baba Ramdev will criss-cross the country almost around the same time. The Prime Minister is worried about the fallout of at least two: the ones led by Ramdev and Advani. Since a major part of the yatra routes fall under states ruled by non-Congress governments, both the PMO and the home ministry are getting ready to gauge the political impact on both state elections and a possible realignment of political parties. Though it is Cabinet Secretary Ajit Kumar Seth’s primary responsibility to coordinate the monitoring, it is Home Secretary R P Singh who has been entrusted with the job of collecting information and passing it on to the PMO and even to the chief ministers. Seth, as usual, seems to be satisfied with being the back room operator as he always has been. Unlike many of his predecessors, he doesn’t throw his weight around.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Teekhi Baat_IBN7_Prabhu Chawla with Ambika Soni

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Teekhi Baat with Ambika Soni on IBN7 / Sept. 17, 2011

PC: Have interviewed you many times, its more than two years that you are in charge of this ministry, or a bit more.

AS: A little over two years.

PC: Every time I try to ask, what role does the information and broadcasting minister play, what they should, what role did you play in the past two years?

AS: Please see, what they should or what they have been doing, on that I cannot say anything.

PC: What one must do, you have been unable to do.

AS: What I have done, I can tell that to you.

PC: What you mean to say that what should be done, that you have not been able to do, that is why you want to only say what you have done.

AS: Na, na, na, na, that is not the case. I think that what I have done, should have been done, because it is very very important, seeing the whole environment today, specially free media in a liberalised atmosphere. All the facilities that we had to give, implement them till this time, and the right use of information that we should get from you all (the media).

PC: I have a habit; there was a film song, badle badle mere sardar nazar aate hain, ghar ki barbadi ke aasar nazar aate hain, that I am not saying. What I am saying is, I have made my own lines on the same, ‘ badli badli meri sarkar nazar aati hain, aane waali badi musibat ki hawa nazar aati hain’.

AS: Please put away your pessimism, I am a born optimist.

PC: If the journalist becomes an optimist, then the media will be in doldrums, madam.

AS: No, no, I think the journalist should increase his perspective some more, should bring some more objectivity, because recently you have seen, that there has been a lot of criticism about journalism in the whole country.

PC: The criticism of journalists has been done by politicians, the people have not done it.

AS: No, no, no, no, I disagree with you completely. You people (the media people) say many times that nobody sees Doordarshan. You will be surprised after hearing this, even though I am saying it and becoming ‘muh mian mittho’, people say that when we want to hear the right news, we see Doordarshan.

PC: Who wants to see headlines he will see Doordarshan that is fine.

AS: The person, who wants to take right information through news, sees Doordarshan. The person who only wants to see breaking news and sensational stories, then put on any of your channels, on all of them, the same type of news is broadcasted.

PC: You don’t believe in TRP, I have kept time for discussion on Doordarshan, will do it later with you. But I am feeling the way you are saying things, that you seem troubled due to publicity.

AS: No you said one thing that, ‘ kuch aasar achche nazar nahi aa rahe’.

PC: aane waali buri hawa…

AS: shayad sarkar

PC: I did not speak of ‘sarkar’ I said ‘ hawa’.

AS: Please see, I am a minister, then may be if you are saying this thing to me, then you may be trying to convey that, the condition for the government do not seem good.

PC: I will not use that kind of language, you are a minister, I fear.

AS: Nobody is scared of me.

PC: You are saying that you said these words, but I want to ask you, a GoM was made, group of ministers to deal with media. So, to deal with the media, a big group of ministers was formed, even after that.

AS: Even if one word is wrong, the whole understanding about it goes wrong. Group of media, on briefing, on issues, there used to be a complaint from you people (the media) that you don’t get news, that is why many times wrong news that used to be broadcast, you used to reason that when there is not information given out by the government, then what we hear from here and there, we broadcast that. Hence, we made a group of ministers, which keep a lot of information through their ministries. We got them together, hence, everyday, when needed, according to your (the media) needs, we can give information. And I think this has been beneficial to a great extent.

PC: Ambikaji, this statement you will find ‘teekhi’ but I will say it.

AS: Please say.

PC: A senior minister like Ambikaji, who I am seeing for the past 35 years in politics, she was given the information minister, then the government should believe on her, what so many ministers have been put together, that they too will sit with Ambika, he will sit, they will sit, they should have trust on you, that you have the responsibility of image correction. You are the image corrector of the government.

AS: Nobody has been put above me, neither the government has a view to put me above anybody.

PC: They work of broadcasting is yours.

AS: Yes, but we should get the information. The information that I want to broadcast or want to hear through your channels, that has to be the truth, should not be told and heard rumours.

PC: You are present in cabinet meetings.

AS: I am in the cabinet, but many results do not happen in cabinet. There is an economic affairs committee of the cabinet, there is political affairs committee, social security committee, I am not a part of it.

PC: Like the law minister is part of every committee of cabinet, almost. The information minister should be in every committee, because he has to tell the public.

AS: I understand that the information minister, I not only understand this, in the past two years whenever I have got an opportunity, in front of the Prime Minister, UPA chairperson, from my side have been giving suggestions, that information and broadcasting minister, without doubt in ex officio capacity..

PC: Should be in every committee of the cabinet, so that they can convey the message of the government to the people now one has to go and ask, they many give or not give you information.

AS: Yes, certainly, certainly right.

PC: Don’t you feel that because of you not getting information, many times, the wrong information goes out, because one cannot meet people many times.

AS: Many times, if I don’t get, I will bear it, keep quiet, if my issue is not heard, that can happen. But when media, and there are 800 channels, 60-70 thousand newspapers of many sizes, there is such a wide media.

PC: It is a Tsunami of media.

AS: If they don’t get information, then I think how can I blame the media every time for broadcasting wrong news and rumours, somewhere, the responsibility lies with us too, That there is no inflow or outflow of information.

PC: Many times, it seems that, even my experience, the information minister is blamed they he has failed to change the image of the government. Not only you, ministers before you too were blamed. If a wrong work is done, then it is your fault, if a good work is done, some other minister gets credit. The perception that is now spreading in this country, that only Ambika Soni will correct the image of the government, even though somebody else does 2g, 3g, CWG, because of this the role of the information ministry is finished, there is defamation.

AS: Prabhu, now what should I tell you, that If there is defamation, I would want that some minister, ministry keeps on correcting the image of the government. If it is my ministry or somebody else is appointed, that is a different issue. But the government has become so big, we are 80 ministers, the scope of work has increased greatly, that every minister is the best spokesperson of his ministry, there can be no better spokesperson than him. Because the dimensions of work, have really gone up so high, so..

PC: How the work has increased. During Indira Gandhi’s time, there used to be 19 ministers, after that there were 35.

AS: See the population, our population.

PC: Ministers are not according to population. The number of Lok Sabha members have not increased from 542, earlier too they were the same number.

PC: Why not, please see, but the work has increased, like flagship programmes. Right to Education (RTE), Right to Work (RTW), Right to Food (RTF) would soon be a law, this has to go to many people, how this information must be sent, the schemes of various ministries, rural development ministry, panchayati raj ministry, land acquisition, many big issues. Today after 64 years, on a big scale, these issues are before the government.

PC: There were big issues earlier too, during that time, they were of some other type, nationalisation of banks, your 20 point programme, they were all very good programmes.

AS: They were all very good programmes, but now when you talk about MRNEGA – Mahatma Gandhi national rural employment guarantee scheme. You have an estimation,that this issue has gone to so many people. I even say that the elections of 2009, this important scheme played a vital role (in winning the election).

PC: Then why is the image of the government bad.

AS: For tribals, other vulnerable sections, forest rights bill was passed, how this will be conveyed to the people. Sarva shiksha abhiyan, rural health mission, today the facilities that the government has made available to the people, if people don’t have information about the same, then how will they access them.

PC: Like you said, you are crippled in a way that you are not present in many places, hence many things you do not come to know. The question is Ambikaji, after doing so much, one Anna Hazare, a man of 74 years, came and rattled the government.

AS: I don’t agree with this point.

PC: All your minister went to his house, office, gave the bill.

AS: No, please give me an opportunity to speak. Anna Hazareji announced a campaign against corruption, want Janlokpal. If you think with a very cool mind, will only Janlokpal eradicate corruption?

PC: It is a start somewhere.

AS: On behalf of the government, in 2004, we in our manifesto had promised, that Lokpal will be formed. This time, a GoM of the government was made, only for writing the Lokpal bill draft, they also did. If you go to the people, who is the person, in a population of more than 100 crore, who say that he does not want to eradicate corruption, everyone will say. Everybody has their own reasons, if did not get admission for my children in school….

PC: The question is, these are peoples sentiments, but this man awakened them, you people wrote letters to him, the prime minister wrote a letter, you too them to the cabinet and made a joint committee together, then you said that you will not listen to them. Sometimes love sometimes betrayal kept on happening with them.

AS: No, it is not a question of love and betrayal, but the issue is which we all are attached. Whether we are in government or in opposition or in civil society, nobody is detached to that issue. Now, when you are attached to the issue, the government has to find a way out, which is acceptable to a majority to people, and that effort was done.

PC: You agree with Anna’s thoughts but not with his way.

AS: About the way I have many questions in my mind. I don’t think that in such a big country, you are a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, his disciple, take his name and then you agitate people, incite people, go and gherao MP’S and ministers homes. It makes take law into your hands, do whatever you want to, can a country run like this.

PC: With Anna Hazare’s movement, what Ramdev and Advaniji are going to do, let me talk about Anna Hazare, from Anna Hazare’s movement, what lesson you learnt.

AS: Now it is not a question of learning a lesson. I think that every such movement, before this also such movements have come and gone, from that we all learning something.

PC: What did you learn from this.

AS: Now, with this I think, the question of responsibility, like we make promises but we don’t pay enough attention on how our office is running, is there responsibility in our ministry. Are people troubled and coming time and again, work should be done in stipulated time otherwise somebody should be punished.

PC: It is a wakeup call for you.

AS: Why not, it happens.

PC: But don’t not agree with their methods..

AS: I don’t agree with their methods because..

PC: But their points are fine regarding recall, staging dharna ourside MP’s houses if the bill is not passed.

AS: Please don’t attach the issue of recall in this, which is another issue. Recall in such a big democracy, where the voters are more than 12 lakh..

PC: They gave a call regarding their Janlokpal bill, which MP’s do not support, then gherao their houses, convince them..do you agree with them or the government will take action against them.

AS: Please see, Prabhu, in think that anybody, if a way goes towards violence, then inciting people for the same is not justifiable.

PC: It is a crime according to you.

AS: No, no, this is undemocratic, unconstitutional.

PC: It is not a crime..you will not catch them…

AS: If anybody, like they said that gherao the Prime Minister. Now, for the security of the Prime Minister, there are some appointed services, they are bothered about their job. I cannot go there and interfere there, saying these people are followers of Anna, don’t touch them. They will catch anybody who goes. If anybody is hit by a lathi during that time..

PC: Now the second daur Anna Hazareji is going to start.

AS: Now he has said that go and do keertan there.

PC: Will do keertan, afterwards will give dharna, after that you will talk to them…write letters

AS: No, that is not the thing, now their agenda here, please see, in a democracy there are five yearly elections. These elections are fought on the basis of election manifestos, this we all know. And, there is a mandate of five years for fulfilling ones promises. If anybody wants to change this mandate, the way, election system, then there is parliament.

PC: Should they fight elections.

AS: No, no, in parliament, tell your elected MP..

PC: Now they are you people are MP’s, Congress people have elected MP’s, they are saying that they will give dharna in front of the houses.

AS: There will be no need, when the government gave, all the suggestions, papers, proposed bills, which have come for Lokpal, to the standing committee. And the standing committee has started its work.

PC: Tell me one thing, which I felt, I read in the newspapers, now I am telling you, don’t know whether you have worked on this, that you are so troubled now that you want to control the media now. There was a discussion of an informal GoM, a thing to control, tame the media by some way, through fine..

AS: Not in my knowledge, there is no group that has been formed. It is a true thing that when there were speeches in the Lok Sabha of all leaders..

PC: Why they show so much, tv channels, time and again, 24 hours.

AS: A lot many big leaders, who are president of political parties, in the opposition too, I heard their speeches. A lot of anger was seen, they said during their speeches, which is also on the record in parliament, that media took sides. Media was not broadcasting objective news, it was one sided. The media played a role in turning people against the parliament. This people said in their speeches. This you heard, even I did.

PC: So, there is no such informal group in your cabinet, like media in what manner, in 24 hours..

AS: In my knowledge, no such group has been formed.

PC: Not in your knowledge, you don’t know many things hence it might happen so..

AS: In my knowledge, to control media.

PC: Not control, framing some guidelines, some people also said that media..

AS: Till now not any such thing, there is a GoM on paid news.

PC: Yes.. yes

AS: Because there is some amount of corruption does creep in the media too. As you know, the press council of India gave a report on paid news. You know that the chief elections commissioner is very much concerned about that report.

PC: You will take action on that.

AS: A GoM has been made on that, that will decide how the press council of India, how should it be tackled, what facilities they have, or have they to be strengthened to deal with this.

PC: There was a proposal that the media should also come under the Lokpal, it was something like that.

AS: This point has been said many times.

PC: Is that being considered, are you in its favour, as information and broadcasting minister.

AS: As far as I am concerned personally, I think, in the 21st century, in media people like us are working, isn’t it.

PC: Yes.

AS: Hence, media should adopt a method of self regulation.

PC: It should not be under Lokpal.

AS: No, no that is another issue. Many regulatory, self regulatory bodies proposed under Lokpal, when even the Prime Minister, Judiciary are being brought under Lokpal, then people are suggesting that even media should be brought under Lokpal. That the standing committee is concentrating on that issue, they will decide. Then it will come before the cabinet.

PC: Will you be with us, or the government.

AS: When the issue comes for discussion before the cabinet, according to my thinking I will speak on it.

PC: There is talk sometimes that FDI causes foreign influence on the media among other issues, is there is thinking that the FDI cap that you were going to increase, you will do it now. Or you have stopped it thinking there are so many channels already.

AS: Prabhu, you know in our country, against FDI, especially in media, there is environment against it. But even then, from 26 per cent to 74 per cent, in entertainment and tv channels, the cap is raised.

PC: This is been given from before.

AS: No before, it has been happening. Even now there are discussions, if it should be increased, some people say it shouldn’t.

PC: Murdoch’s news of the world issue would have had an effect on your thinking.

AS: Murdoch…something may happen or not happen, in our country the media is very capable, very influential, in liberal atmosphere under section 19 of the constitution, is free.

PC: It is free, but you think it should be strong internally, foreign FDI increase in not on the radar.

AS: Till now there is no suggestion like this.

PC: There is no suggestion for increasing it in news channels.

AS: Not at this moment.

PC: Atmosphere is not right.

AS: Whether the atmosphere is right or not, not getting into that.

PC: It’s not under consideration.

AS: At this moment, it is not under consideration.

PC: Please tell me one thing, how do you use media; there was guidelines of the Supreme Court judgement too, that every minister on August 15, January 26, they use Prime Minister, Sonaiji photo in advertisements and other media, there were guidelines of the Supreme Court that these photos should not be allowed. But every time we see, its fine, ads should come, achievement, 15 August is the good day, we (media industry) also get benefitted in the process, but what these photos, but why person worshipping ‘vyakti pooja’ is happening, sarkaar ki pooja honi chaiye.

AS: Prabhu, you want ads to come to you newspaper, television channels.

PC: Its fine, you are publicizing, it would be true, but will it become more true by putting a photo, If there is prime ministers photo or Soniaji’s photo.

AS: As far as prime minister and UPA chairperson’s photos are concerned, I think it is very essential. Because, I want to tell, there are many programmes.

PC: Soniaji herself would not want the photos to be there.

AS: No, they both don’t want.

PC: Then why do you put, the ministers.

AS: Please let me tell, I think it is a logo of centrally sponsored schemes. There are many programmes, which end delivery is by the states, there are many programmes on a big scale, which centre does for every state. Many places it is seen, that centrally driven programmes, state changes it name, put a base as its own programme.

PC: Even Atalji had launched Atal Behari Vjapayee yojana.

AS: Many times, money is also diverted. Hence, I think putting prime ministers and UPA chairperson’s photo, that in a way is a logo, that this is a centrally sponsored programme. It has an importance.

PC: Wont it happen if only prime ministers photo is put up, putting Soniaji’s photo, putting her photo does not decrease or increase her popularity.

AS: No, no, no, no, it is not a question of popularity.

PC: Ministers must be increasing their numbers by putting the photo.

AS: We don’t put Sonaiji’s photo because she is president of the Congress, there is a reason, we put Sonia Gandhi’s picture because, because she is this UPA Alliance, government’s chairman.

PC: But other UPA allies don’t put her photo.

AS: Why not (they do), you tell me…

PC: Agriculture minister doesn’t put, other ministers don’t put, I can count the ministers..

AS: I have not brought papers with me to show you, on this point don’t debate with me.

PC: You feel all UPA ministers put photo of both – Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

AS: All of them.

PC: But it is essential for you to increase the credibility of the scheme..

AS: Not only credibility, also to tell people, that central government is doing how much work for you. Even though any party may be ruling in the state, to reach poor people ‘aam aadmi’ there, central government is preoccupied.

PC: Now one final question, want a small answer from you, seeing this whole episode in the past four months, don’t you feel in this league, championship, politics championship, Anna Hazare won a gold medal ..

AS: Asking such questions on television seems very attractive…

PC: Did you lose or not.

AS: There is no question, there is no issue of winning of losing. Please listen to me Prabhu, Anna Hazare is a senior person, is a Gandhian,

PC: I asked for a small answer…

AS: No, no, no, no, he has been associated with Andolans in Maharashtra, respecting him, the people who came with him, valuing them, the government accommodated, after 12 days…there is no question of winning or losing in this. There is a mandate for three more years, and by doing work, fulfilling the promises, the government will fulfil its responsibility. After 2004 in 2009, we did not lose, in a fresh mandate we won with more numbers, you see in 2014, we will come again.

PC: Under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership.

AS: Whoever is our leader, under his leadership.

PC: You consider Anna Hazare as dishonest or honest

AS: I don’t think Anna Hazare, I think Anna Hazare is honest.

PC: At least you agreed to this, many people don’t. Thank you for coming you studio.

AS: Thank you Prabhuji !