Debating India

BBC Interviews

...The Pro-BJP Stance Of Samajwadi Party

Nagendar SHARMA, BBC HINDI RADIO

Monday 29 March 2004, by SHARMA*Nagendar

The Congress spokesman on his party failing to ally with Mulayam and Mayawati in UP - ’if there was to be an alliance in UP, the Congress return to power at the centre was a foregone conclusion’ - and its electoral prospects, on the dynasty question and more.

The full transcript of the BBC Hindi Special programme Aapki Baat BBC Ke Saath with the Congress party spokesman, MP and Supreme Court lawyer Kapil Sibal on the topic: "Is the Congress party in any position to challenge the ruling NDA in the coming general elections?"

BBC: Is the Congress in any position to pose a challenge to the ruling NDA in the coming general elections?

Kapil Sibal : The manner in which the Congress party has started building an alliance for the general elections this time, it is clear that the Congress-led alliance would be the ruling coalition after the elections. The reason I am saying this is because the way BJP is being deserted by allies who are joining the Congress-led alliance, it is clear that they would not be left with many allies. Except the Shiv Sena, Akali Dal, Telugu Desam and the JD(U), I do not find anybody else who would stay with the BJP; Mamta’s party has no significance left now.

BBC listener from Delhi : Mr Sibal, your party could not find an ally in Uttar Pradesh. Both the BSP and the SP have said no to an alliance with you. How can the Congress provide an alternative to the NDA., is it not your defeat ?

Kapil Sibal: Not at all. It is strange that despite ten allies having walked out of the ruling coalition, it is still being called the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Being in power, the BJP had to lose all their Tamil allies - DMK, MDMK, PMK. Then National Conference from J&K, Paswan’s Lok Janshakti in Bihar, Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal in UP, Chautala in Haryana, Mayawati left them and Mamta has been playing with them. So what do you call an alliance?

In U.P., yes it is right that the Congress’ alliance efforts have not been successful. But talk about other states — Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Bihar where we have entered into successful alliances.

We wanted to avoid a split in the secular vote in UP, but it seems that the Samajwadi Party (SP) of Mulayam Singh, wants to walk down its own road. Poor Mayawati is afraid of some cases that might be used against her by the ruling alliance.

BBC: But is it not an example of a confused party that you are trying for an alliance with SP while the leaders of that party have clearly said that they have nothing to do with the Congress now, still you are supporting them in the state...

Kapil Sibal: We have no hesitation in accepting that we are weak in UP, as compared to other states. What we want in UP is to avoid a split in secular votes. Such a situation would benefit us as well as other secular parties, but it looks like the SP wants to go alone, the reason for this is best known to them. If there was to be an alliance between us and other secular parties like the SP, all of us would perform well and BJP would be left nowhere in the biggest state of the country.

But the attitude of SP is such which is helping no one, it is really unfortunate that the SP which would not have been able to form a government without the support of Congress is running away from the alliance. Whenever we have supported the SP, it has deserted us. We only hope that if any party is secular it would come join hands with us.

BBC: How was the Congress trying for an alliance with SP and BSP at the same time, when its known that both these parties are sworn enemies of each other ?

Kapil Sibal: We were clear that the Samajwadi Party (SP) has something in mind and they might not like a secular alliance in UP. The reason for our understanding is the behaviour of SP in Parliament. When the entire opposition was one in boycotting the Defence Minister George Fernandes, SP was the only opposition party which did not join the boycott. It was the SP which did not support the no-confidence motion of the opposition. All this shows the pro-BJP stance of this party. Despite all this, the Congress supported Mulayam Singh in forming the government in UP. They know that this government could not have been formed without Congress’ support.

On the other hand, we tried for an alliance with the BSP, because this alliance would have been capable of defeating the BJP, but it seems Mayawati is afraid that the CBI might be used against her, therefore she did not come forward for the alliance.

Still we maintain that all the parties who are secular should come together in UP. If this does not happen, then the people of the country would decide on the secular credentials of the contesting parties, and also about those hobnobbing with the communal forces.

We have no hesitation in acknowledging publicly that our efforts in UP have disappointed us. If there was to be an alliance in UP, the Congress return to power at the centre was a foregone conclusion, but if that does not materialise we are going to fight on our own. Our party surveys tell us we are to get around 18 percent votes in that state.

BBC listener from Samastipur : Even in Bihar Laloo Yadav has given Congress only four seats, whereas a small party like the Lok Janshakti of the Ram Vilas Paswan has been given eight seats. Where do you stand?

Kapil Sibal: There is no doubt that we wanted more seats in Bihar, but we have an ally in Laloo there who has consistently been with us. To defeat the BJP-led communal forces, we have decided that even less seats is fine. To keep our alliance intact is the bigger aim. What is important is that Laloo has been with us for the last five-seven years.

BBC listener from Gujarat : Is it not the Congress bankruptcy that there is nothing except Nehru-Gandhi dynasty left, except dynasty politics, getting a woman who has no political experience? Even Narasimha Rao had been sidelined...

Kapil Sibal: It is really strange that BJP which organised a felicitation function on Varun Gandhi’s birthday in Gujarat is talking about dynastic politics. This function was treated by them like a national event. He was garlanded by the BJP national president on joining . Why was Varun made to meet L K Advani? It is shameful that the BJP, which has tried all sorts of dynastic allies from Abdullahs in J&K to Chautalas in Haryana and Badals in Punjab is talking about dynastic politics.

Why is Jaswant Singh’s son contesting the Lok Sabha elections? Why has the niece of Mr Vajpayee, Karuna Shukla, been given the ticket, why is his nephew a minister? Why was Katiyar’s wife made a minister in UP?

And then they talk about Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, who sacrificed everything for the freedom struggle of the country.

Can anyone name a single leader of the BJP and even the RSS who participated in the freedom struggle? May I know where was Mr Advani during the freedom struggle? It is the BJP which believes in dynastic politics.

The talk of political experience is absurd, when Mrs Indira Gandhi was sworn in as the Prime Minister, the opposition parties had dubbed her as a ’dumb doll’, but later she went on to become the most successful PM after her father. The so-called experienced leaders of this government could not do anything when the Gujarat riots tarnished the image of India in the entire world.

So far as your question to Mr Narasimha Rao is concerned, he had to go after cases of corruption were registered against him.

BBC: But Mr Sibal, the BJP says it was a propaganda of the opposition against the Modi government which was re-elected by the people of the state with a thumping majority...

Kapil Sibal: Hitler was also elected by the people, so this argument does not hold. When the government at the centre changes, Narendra Modi would have to go to jail .

BBC listener from Patna : The BJP has made it clear that it would once again make Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin an election issue. They did it in 1999, they would do it again, is it the Congress party’s major weakness?

Kapil Sibal: Not at all. I would like to remind you that when the present government decided to dissolve the Lok Sabha ahead of time, both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister asserted that they would fight this election on a developmental plank. Right now, the issue of development has been put on the backburner.

Now the sole slogan of BJP is foreign origin. OK come and let us talk about that issue. When Ms Sonia Gandhi decided to contest the Lok Sabha election from Bellary in 1999, Sushma Swaraj said she would fight against her and her slogan would be Swadeshi Vs Videshi bahu. The result is known to the world.

After winning, Sonia Gandhi became the leader of the opposition. Soniaji has said clearly that India is her country. What objection does the BJP have, that Soniaji was not born in India. By that argument, even L K Advani was not born in India, he was born in Sindh.

These people who claim to be patriotic, are the ones who supported the British. The RSS supported the British from 1925 to 1947, and opposed the Congress and the freedom struggle, they are the ones who are the real ?videshis’. They have opposed Swadeshi. Could they please tell me in which freedom march or demonstration did they participate, let alone their having even seen a jail in the freedom movement.

BBC listener from Chandigarh : Mr Sibal, you are claiming that your party would be the winner. But what has your party done for the economic development of the country ?

Kapil Sibal: I am glad that you have asked this. At the time of independence, life expectancy was 37 years, today it is 70 years. Literacy rate has gone up from 23 percent to 63 percent. The railways structure, the canal structure, two million kms of roads, dams, space programmes, IT, telecom revolution, green revolution... my friend all these are the things which the Congress party made possible and not those who spent five years just keeping their allies together and are indulging in tall slogans today.

BBC listener from Rajasthan : The NDA has been able to project its tenure as historic and the opposition has failed in even highlighting their failures, and that is why the NDA is coming up with slogan after slogan. Why? And Mr Advani says the result of the match between Congress and the BJP is already known to all...

Kapil Sibal: These people have spent time only in trying to create a hype. 90 percent of the people do not have sanitation facilities, do they feel good? Poor Children who can’t even go to school, do they feel good ?

The BJP and its allies tried to create a wave, which eventually fell flat. They are talking of getting a majority. Can anyone convince me that BJP which is contesting a mere nine seats in Andhra, six in Tamil Nadu, two in West Bengal, and has no existence in Kerala, from where is it going to increase its seats ? Their projections are like their feel good, which are imaginary, and nowhere near the reality. South of Vindhyas they won’t get more than 20-25 seats.

BBC listener from Panchkula : What is your vision for making India a super-power by 2020, which the President and Prime Minister of India want ?

Kapil Sibal: What do you mean by a superpower, first of all? In a country where 40 percent of the population has no education, where 30 crore unemployed are looking for jobs, farmers have been committing suicide, is this a superpower about which Mr Vajpayee and Advani boast?

The priority of Congress party would be to provide basic facilities to the people of the country. India can become a superpower when there is increased public investment, which would create jobs. At the moment, the rate of unemployment is 15-20 percent. Six percent of GDP would be spent on education - this we have said in our election manifesto. Government spending on health would have to be increased.

P.S.

in Outlook India, March 29, 2004.

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