PC: You never do ‘sachchi baat’ in your avatar as a spokesperson, I hope here you will.
Interview with renowned lawyer, Rajya Sabha MP and Congress party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi. Excerpts:
AMS: In my role as a spokesperson, as far as it is possible, we speak the full truth, or if a things can be seen from two angles, then the best aspect is what I put forward, but don’t speak lies.
PC: As far as it is possible, you do “Sachchi Baat”
AMS: If cannot say anything, then keep quiet.
PC: But don’t lie
AMS: As far as possible, see, in my view as a lawyer, spokesperson, normally, black and white is less, there is a lot of grey area. Work is to see that the best facet of grey should be shown on behalf of the party. And if it is not possible, the keep quiet, speak less or don’t go to the program. There are many times I don’t go to the program.
PC: You don’t go because you don’t want to speak the truth.
AMS: No, where it is necessary to speak the truth, but it is impossible to do so, I don’t go there.
PC: In politics, maximum time lies are said.
AMS: That is not the case, in everything there is no black or white. In addition to ‘satya’ and ‘asatya’ there are grey areas.
PC: No what you said is as far as possible you make efforts to speak the truth, that means you speak half truth.
AMS: Where it is not possible, I don’t go, or keep quiet.
PC: You are spokesperson of the party, are you a party lawyer or spokesperson, there must be some difference between the two.
AMS: Many times we cannot go to programs, where we feel that one some issue I cannot contribute or will have to say white lies, I don’t go then. You have seen many programs, people also complain.
PC: You don’t go because you will have to lie.
AMS: Yes. Or when I feel that I will not have conviction, trust in what I say. This is ‘sachchi baat’, it is a ‘sachchi baat’ program and that is what I am telling.
PC: You have raised a good point, that spokesperson many a times does not have conviction. If Congress party, has a view with which you don’t agree but, as a loyal worker you have to say. But many times you would be faced with issues, hence though Abhishek Manu Singhvi does not like something, but he has to say it.
AMS: Please see, there are two three aspects to this issue. First point, spokesperson does no chalk out strategy. In a way they do it as a Congressman, but It is not true that I have made up the whole thing what I am saying. Number two, many times I feel, this aspect is better regarding this issue, then we present the best part. There are many issues against us, but we don’t fear the same. But there third category that you are speaking about, when I feel that there is not point to get across, or there has been a wrong decision, it will not be right to attribute it to the Congress, as it happens in every party. And I cannot put across the decision and the soul does not permit then, many times don’t go.
PC: No, many time your soul does not permit even then you have to go out and speak. There are many such times.
AMS: Even though the soul does not permit, I have to go but then there must be something to say, a point to put across. Where I feel there is no point to put across, or have to say just for the sake of it, then it is better, for the party also, and even for me, to not go.
PC: Spokesperson are appoint because they ideology, principles otherwise even they would not like him representing.
AMS: principles, ideology, strategy, politician, but you are talking about a decision taken in a particular, month, day and time. These are two different things. Decisions are a manifestation, that can be different.
PC: It is issue based and different issues come every day, they tell you that this is the strategy and you have to speak so and so today about this issue. In a way you became a loudspeaker for the party.
AMS: No, no in this there is one more amusing thing. I am asked this every time, and you will know this better, even then you are asking this question. People think there are fifty boxes, in which there are fifty strategies of congress are kept. Today an issue was raised by Prabhu Chawla, a strategy from box number 51 was taken out, and I announced and spoke about it. The truth is different, it is such a fast moving world that, some decision is taken and what we go and speak becomes the line of the Congress party. The spokesperson does not only announce or speak on the loudspeaker, many times, because every issues has newness, hence what we formulate in front of you, that can also become the strategy. The other Congressman also take the same line later.
PC: What about issues that happen on a daily basis, like Digvijay Singh said, that RSS is a bomb making factory.
AMS: I said clearly, he has announced and made statements, ask him. Then we also have clarity on this issue.
PC: You are not lying, but isn’t it is Congress strategy, what he said.
AMS: It has been indicated to you that this is not Congress’s strategy. The signals are clear.
PC: But you cannot say clearly because you are bound by discipline.
AMS: It is quite clear. I feel it is reasonably clear. This indication the whole mass of people and even you have understood.
PC: I have understood, the question is that time and again he says and every time Abhishek Manu Singhvi says that ask him. In the past six months, Dr. Digvijay Singh, I am addressing him as Dr. as he has a new theory every time, and you say ask him.
AMS: Digvijay Singhji is a senior leader of our party. He has got a lot of experience. He has done a lot of work for the party. We fully agree with his many statements and strategies. Yes, where he makes a statement, which is not the party’s statement, I say it clearly, as I did today. Ask him as it is his statement.
PC: A party’s general secretary, in charge of UP where elections are going to be held, every fifteen day, he says such a thing that party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi, says time and again that as him. Hence, don’t you think what he says is also on behalf of the Congress.
AMS: No, not at all. The official briefing of the Congress party, its not about me, about any spokesperson who is officially appointed, and what we say, either we get some clear strategy, or we have to agree that this is our strategy, of the Congress party. That is why, what I say in may capacity as Congress spokesperson, or any other Congressman says, there is a difference.
PC: What you say is the Congress’s policy.
AMS: It is a stand, statement.
PC: Hence I can infer that what Dr. Digvijay Singh says, is not the Congress line.
AMS: Not necessary should be every time.
PC: The general secretary puts forth is personal opinion and you only the Congress line.
AMS: 99 per cent is can matches, it does. There might be one of the other issue on which, which may not tally. If he is our general secretary, then there are many things which tally.
PC: If I ask Sachchi Baat in one line, what Abhishek Manu Singhvi says is Congress policy,
AMS: That is there officially.
PC: But sometimes what Digvijay Singh says, it is not necessary that it Congress’s policy
AMS: You have said it correctly, sometimes, not necessary.
PC: That sometime is becoming many times these days. Somebody like Digvijay Singh is AICC general secretary speaks against the Congress policy. Should a person like this being a post holder in the party or not. You were saying that it is not necessary that the Congress general secretary should speak the party line, sometimes he can also say his personal opinion, on which you later have to say is his own opinion, Is this true.
AMS: Most of the times, the issues tally, sometime I say you ask him it is his statement.
PC: Now I am asking you are very important question. A very important general secretary of the Congress party, Rahul Gandhiji, he said 99 per cent bomb blasts are stopped within this country, one per cent happen. There Congress general secretary talk about zero tolerance, which is also the Congress parties line.
AMS: This is a very important question Prabhuji and I want to give two answers for this. Please read the whole statement, the next statement of what you quoted, ‘but we are making efforts that 100 per cent this should not happen”. This is his whole sentence. Number two, what he said, am on Sachchi Baat today, tell me if I am saying wrong, today the terrorist has to try 100 times to be right one time, we have to be right 100 times, sometimes there are mistakes. We are making efforts to stop it 100 per cent, but sometimes mistakes happen, our one fault, his 99 faliures. This is true.
PC: The BJP asked which are the 99 per cent of the attacks which have been stopped..
AMS: Not 99 more than 99 per cent were stopped. Those incidents which have been averted are not discussed on your program. BJP will only catch one point, am answering BJP’s question, in the past three years, I am not boasting, god forbid some such thing happens, but do we think that the glass if not three quarters full, half full, one quarter full. How many incidents have happened after 26/11. We don’t want praise, we don’t want wishes, but some due credit must be given.
PC: Did some other leader said till today that one per cent happens.
AMS: He didn’t say one per cent. He said, 99 per cent we avert, sometimes there are mistakes and he added the next sentence that ‘ we are trying that it should be averted 100 per cent”. What wrong did he say.
PC: You are justifying
AMS: Certainly. I said it in another way. I said that 99 times he can be wrong, but if terrorist is right one time… the security forces have to be right 100 times, there is possibility that they may not be right some time.
PC: In addition to court, you also do political defending well.
AMS: It is Sachchi Baat, Sachchi Baat is always true.
PC: After being good lawyer and a political spokesperson, you have a good strike rate in court, I saw your record. But don’t you think you would have worked well if you had been in the government.
AMS: Whom are you asking this question?
PC: Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
AMS: I am incapable of answering this question. I am very happy where I am. I think what work I am given by the party, I think; all people don’t think am sure, do with full dedication, and try to work well. When and when I have to be, I have been given a lot of respect. I am in the parliament, I am a speaker, I am being given different works, like I am the president of Akhil Bharatiya legal and human rights wing. After this where I have to be only two people know, three people know.
PC: Who are these three?
AMS: There are two three people. Congress president, Hon. Prime Minister and..
PC: And Rahul Gandhi …who is the third one.. You have said it
AMS: What I have given you very clear answer, I am happy being where I am.
PC: Don’t you feel that you had to be a minister.
AMS: How can I say this? I have to learn a lot many things.
PC: You have been made spokesperson, head of legal and human rights wing, these are symbolic office posts.
AMS: These questions you should not ask me. As I said, I think in this country, if you are committed to some party, then you have to work through the party. Rest, to get into these thinks, dwell, cry about them, this is not done.
PC: Like the way you defence the party, the kind of bettered state that the party is in today, in spite of defending so much, it seems Congress UPA 2 government is most corrupt government, the most inefficient government. It has the biggest cabinet in India headed by Dr. Manmohan Singh, how will you be able to defend. Don’t you think that there should be better people so that what has been happening should not happen?
AMS: I have no doubt that if I will be given any responsibility, I think I will make efforts, to work efficiently, whether it is party of government post, decision and will full force. This has always been my focus. But to think that one person, can change the whole thing, it is a collective thing a team work. As far as the examples you gave, certainly, on one side an environment has been created, but don’t think that the environment is like that only. Recently, there were elections for 800 assembly seats, if people thought we were so bad, then we would have been thrown out. This is not the case, there are problems…
PC: Tamil Nadu you were thrown out.
AMS: There are problems but not like the pessimism that is being shown.
PC: There was no alternative in Assam, in Tamil Nadu where the issue of corruption was at peak; there your party’s performance was affected.
AMS: Please see, there can be reasons given for losing and winning but the truth is that in this country, from 800 seats, one party has won 5-7 seats, one party has come back to power, there is a difference.
PC: How many seats you had earlier from 800.
AMS: We came back to power again in West Bengal, Kerala, where there is pre announced tie up, there you have to count your win. Bengal, Kerala and Assam were pre announced. I can say the real disappointment was losing Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry together.
PC: in Pondicherry also, the rebel Congress has won.
AMS: There is some disappointment, but it is ok, see what condition the opposition is in.
PC: ‘Sachchi Baat’ is that the image of the UPA 2 is that of a corrupt government, in spite of having an honest Prime Minister, the government’s is bad.
AMS: In my opinion, I don’t agree with this point. This issue that you have taken up is important, and has been made in the past six months,
PC: You are talking as if it has been made
AMS: I am not saying that it has been artificially made, it is getting made. But nobody has taken a poll that how many people think UPA for senior UPA leaders to be corrupt or agree with this that in their tenure the instances of corruption that came out during their tenure, all those places, till whatever extent possible, they have tried to take action. These are two different things, if corrupt people have been found in the government, action has been taken.
PC: If you see opinon polls in newspapers, atleast 60 to 70 per cent people think that Dr. Manmohan Singh has been responsible for things comings to such a pass.
AMS: I don’t agree with you.
PC: You talked about opinon poll, I am telling you.
AMS: Am not talking about that opinion poll. Those opinion polls have stopped happening in the right manner many years ago. Please don’t go on those opinion polls. I think those opinion polls should get noble prize of miniaturisation.
PC: The kind of integrity and credibility that Dr. Manmohan Singh has, which was his USP, slowly slowly that is diminishing.
AMS: These attempts have been made by the opposition. The opposition has understood, till such time that it does not attack some people like, one side Sonia Gandhiji, one side Prime Minister, in such a way, to remove an image from our leaders, which their leaders do not have. Till then they cannot be successful, these efforts have been happening, but I don’t agree that this has been successful.
PC: But First of all you are saying opposition is making an attempt to malign the image of Manmohan Singhji and Soniaji. There is less attack on Soniaji Gandhi, why there so much attack on Dr. Manmohan Singhji. After 2014, as it is he is not you candidate.
AMS: Now you are putting forth theories, I am listening.
PC: He has himself said, you can make Rahul Gandhi Prime Minster now, I am ready to vacate.
AMS: I have a clear answer, he is Prime Minister of our country, congress party leader, this situation is continuing, what happens ahead, next, I don’t want to comment on that.
PC: You don’t think there is vacancy
AMS: There is no vacancy. All other things are speculation and rumour, not right.
PC: Tell me one thing, the spokesperson of the Congress party, there is a charge, all the Congress run states, in Maharashtra, where farmers are dying, Rahul doesn’t go, but reaches Uttar Pradesh. Like the latest issue, Mamta put pressure, you solved the gorkhaland issue, but you are not ready to make Telangana.
AMS: Please see Prabhuji, what is the allegation, shouldn’t this country prosper, please leave Telangana, in Gorkhaland, there was lot of violence, many people died. You cannot connect Gorkhaland and Telengana, the history and aspiration of every movement is different.
PC: Where ever you powerful ally dictates you, like Karunanidhi told you that you will not give communication ministry to anybody else
AMS: I will give a straight answer, as soon as the government changed in Bengal, there was co operation, with the help of the state government the home ministry solved the Gorkhaland issue, it is very good thing, positive and the country is happy. I am also saying that make hill council autnnomous, which party will agree in Telangana, are people are Telanagana agreeing for making an autonomous council. Demand for statehood and autonomous council are two different things.
PC: I am talking about intentions, where you don’t have to work …
AMS: That is not the case, as far as the case of Telangana is concerned, we have made full efforts. You also know it is a very delicate issue. We cannot please every party, I agree there are options on this issue, that there are a lot of emotions, people are discontented, hence we will have to tread slowly. Nothing can happen without patients.
PC: Nehruji…there Justice Fazal Ali recommened that Telangana should be formed. But Nehruji said that it should not be done…temporarily. Hence, is it that since Nehruji didn’t allow hence Congress party is not allowing it to happen?
AMS: If this was the issue, the committee would not have been formed, would there have been so many options. Today, so many of our MLA’s and MP’s resigned,
PC: The resignation was not accepted, if it had been the BJP or some other party, it would have.
AMS: would this have happened. We are aware and sensitive on this issue.
PC: Should Telengana be formed or no.
AMS: I cannot say anything about this now.
PC: What is the Congress strategy on this issue.
AMS: This is a sensitive issue, but let me tell you, if somebody wants to sincerely solve it, it is the Congress. BJP, for many years when it was in power, did not twitch a finger on this issue.
PC: They have changed, earlier they were against, now they are in favour of Telangana.
AMS: We are making efforts, it is talking time, I agree.
PC: it takes time to solve things, but tell me one thing, you father was a good academician, worked well, wrote books, was a Rajya Sabha MP like you, was an Ambassador, will you go on your fathers route or you have any political ambitions.
AMS: I am politics, public life, is hesitate to say the politics work, I am in public life, it is a better word.
PC: By nature, you are not a politician.
AMS: This point is not wrong to an extent; let me tell you one thing, I believe that, you people tell time and again, that there is corruption and wrong doing in public life, but I think that too an extent if you keep people in proportion like 30 to 40 per cent, in typical inverted comma whom you don’t call politician. When you dependence on one thing does not force you to compromise, is that bad thing. In think that I want a combination
PC: You don’t want to be a stereotype politician.
AMS: Pease see, there is not theory, at a point of time; I was an academic, before becoming an advocate. After that was an advocate, before formally joining politics I have been associated with it, from close quarters. But now in the India of 2011, at typical stereotype of Indian politican might not work.
PC: Dr. Manmohan Singh fits in that brief.
AMS: Dr. Manmohan Singh, you are talking about a very big man. “ Raja ko rank se aap”
PC: You fit that brief
AMS: In a way he has started …
PC: Though there is another thing that there should be an elected prime minister, a debate can be done on that too. But I don’t want to get into that issue now. What is your dream. Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi as an individual
AMS: I dream is that I have many ideas, I think I have to ability to bring them into effect by working 22 hours a day if not 24 hours. But thing cannot be brought into effect unless you are given the right opportunity. I have some ideas, now I don’t want to use words that I want to do ‘ janseva’, that all I live, we also have our aspirations. ‘ Sachchi Baat’ you are telling is the name of this progam, if I get that one change, then I think there are 5 – 10 such issues, I am not only talking about the legal sector. There are many areas. As you asked about my dream, if I get a change sometime, I will do it. Otherwise, I am happy, as it is am doing many things.
PC: If five years from now if you are required be in the political arena in Rajasthan. Because you are from Rajashtan.
AMS: To think that I am not from Rajashtan, or I don’t want, I is true that I am in the central politics and associated with it, but the smell of the land of Rajasthan, that is in my vein, I was born there. Even now, my 400 projects under MPLAD are running there, for which every month – month and a half I go there. Hence, I am associated, rest, it in somebody else’s hand. When I get a chance then I can talk.
PC: Would you like to be in politics full time.
AMS: If there is a right, purposeful, chance, then certainly. People tell me many times, am telling you ‘Sachchi Baat’ people ask me are you leaving law practice. I tell them, with god’s grace, I am doing well at may practice, name is counted among the top lawyers in the country. Hence, the success, money, status that comes with it, I am ready to leave that. Is this not a commitment? But to think that I will leave it beforehand, for example if I have left it and say, ‘ Hey Prabhuji kuch karo ?” That will be wrong.
PC: You mean until you get a better opportunity.
AMS: It should not be better, it should be purposeful.
PC: In which you have interest.
PC: Now the days judiciary is prevailing on you, don’t you think that lawyers have a responsibility, they are not performing their exactive role. Hence, the judiciary has to intervene.
AMS: This is an vital issue, cannot be discussed in such less time. It is an important issue, I think there is one more point to this, this is done by government lawyers, not private ones. But if executive decides one policy, and even takes four days to do it and stays put on that. Then with due respect, we will tell the court that this is not their jurisdiction. After that even if the lawyer gets scolded by the court, even then we will sat put. Then this can change. But then a policy has to be made, on an individual issue. Certainly, there are some solution that I cannot say now.
PC: The government has policy but does not stay put. The government executive does not stay put on its decisions.
AMS: No, no I did not say that.
PC: That I am saying.
AMS: There are some issues, on which by spending time, you can tell the court in advance we have no strategy, policy on this issue, we need time, we will tell you in three days. But after a week when you decide, then you must stay put. Court has to be told, with due respect, that this is not your jurisdiction. After that, court also has the jurisdiction…
PC: Has the time come for saying this thing or no.
AMS: In many sectors certainly, On many issues and many cases certainly.
PC: In what language will it have to be said?
AMS: The best thing about our democracy is that the court is ready to hear it. Court does not stop you, but after that the last word, decision is of the court that what they will say about the issue. And we have to obey that.
PC: If you would have been in the government, this point would have been put across soon.
AMS: I believe in this point.
PC: We hope when you are in the government, you will take up such issues. Thank you for coming to our studio.
AMS: Thank You!