Interview with Rajnath Singh: ‘Even if we could benefit from polarisation, we wouldn’t want to derive such benefits’

The day his government completes two years in power, the Union Home Minister discusses achievements and targets, the UP elections, Pathankot and Delhi police.

Written by Sagnik Chowdhury , Deeptiman Tiwary , Liz Mathew | Updated: May 27, 2016 7:13 am
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After two years, what do you feel are the achievements of the home ministry?

There were challenges before the ministry in the past and there are challenges now. I can’t claim that I have defeated all the challenges relating to security. It’s such a large country that it’s only natural that some incidents will keep taking place. But I can say that in the past two years, whether it is terrorism, insurgency or Maoism, we have had several successes on these fronts. Over the past eight to 10 years, on these three fronts, we are currently seeing the lowest levels of incidents.

More youth in Jammu and Kashmir are joining terror outfits than earlier. What is being done to counter it?

We are trying to bring about a perception change, remove misconceptions. We are running several schemes to ensure that Kashmiri youth find employment, and thousands are being trained.

So you aren’t concerned?

I wouldn’t say that I am not concerned. I feel that whatever the prevailing circumstances are, they need to be improved further. I don’t think that everything is completely normal. There is a lot to be done.

Read: ‘Govt will bridge any trust deficit with minorities’

A second major attack took place recently in Manipur. The government had earlier announced a peace deal with NSCN(IM), later described only as a “framework agreement”. When can we expect a final accord?

It is at a fairly advanced stage. Talks are going on, and I think that within a few months it will be finalised.

Do you mean that in a few months, the final Naga peace accord will be sealed?

There is already a framework agreement. The work of taking the framework agreement to its final stage will be completed in the coming few months.

Read: It’s UP 2017 between the lines of PM Modi’s rally

Your chief minister in Assam has set a deadline of two years for sealing the Bangladesh border. Do you think this is possible?

Border fencing should take place. It is happening, and should take place faster.

How will you seal the border fully, given that Bangladesh is a friendly country?

A friendly country will cooperate more. They will cooperate on fencing. We have also formed a committee under the chairmanship of former home secretary Madhukar Gupta to identify gaps in border security so that they can be plugged.

The home ministry’s crackdown on NGOs for FCRA violations has been controversial. Among these were the NGOs of Teesta Setalvad and Indira Jaising. There is a view that the action was a way of getting even with them.

Our government will not act against anyone with revenge in mind. Our ethics do not permit that, and we will never do it. But assuming we have made some mistakes wittingly or unwittingly in the home ministry, the doors of the judiciary are always open. Rather than levelling such allegations, this would make things crystal clear.

Read: Two years of Modi sarkar: Here’s what the BJP govt’s key ministers have to say

After Home Ministry undersecretary Anand Joshi’s arrest by the CBI, will there be a review of earlier decisions on FCRA violations by NGOs to see if corruption could have taken place?

The CBI has interrogated him. You will appreciate that we were alert about what was happening, not just sitting idle. Such things must have been happening in the past, and nobody even knew about it then. This has not happened today.

Are any other ministry officials under the scanner?

Nothing like that has been brought to our notice yet. If it is, we will decide on appropriate action.

Your support base would seek immediate retaliation against Pakistan for incidents such as the Pathankot attack. How do you meet that challenge?

I don’t think our support base thinks like that. But it’s true that if India’s prestige is hurt in any way, if anyone dares threaten India, not only our support base but the entire country would want a response. But our government would also take the maximum steps called for only in accordance with domestic and international laws.

Your tweet during the attack created a controversy on the number of terrorists involved. Is there any clarity now?

I have already given a clarification in Parliament.

In its report, the standing committee on home affairs said the attack was not prevented despite advance intelligence.

No terror attack should ideally take place, but once an incident does take place, it is true that lapses will be identified. But people probably don’t see the other side of things — that our forces prevented damage to any important installation and losses of thousands of crores of rupees.

The attack has raised the issue of Punjab border fencing which has been gathering dust since the 1980s. Why does it take an attack to realise the importance of border fencing?

Why do you expect that within one year of the government all work should be completed? The BSF may have made representations earlier. All these things are being looked into. I have formed a committee to look into border security. All possible measures will be taken to strengthen border security.

Pakistan’s JIT has come and gone. It now seems there will be no reciprocity from Pakistan vis a vis NIA’s visit.

There are talks happening at the level of foreign secretary. Let’s see what response comes from there in the near future. It was decided that there would be reciprocity.

What will you do if Islamabad refuses to allow NIA into Pakistan?

That’s a hypothetical question. Let’s wait and watch.

What will your role be in the UP elections? Will you claim responsibility for the result, whatever that is?

I don’t feel that if something happens, it is only because of one person. But the BJP will form the government, with a clear majority.

Do you agree with Amit Shah that the SP will be the BJP’s closest rival?

I don’t want to comment on this. I feel that whoever is in the contest, they will be fighting against the BJP. In some places, the SP will fight the BJP, in some places the BSP will fight the BJP. There could be three or four seats where the Congress too could fight, but they will have no major political significance.

Will the BJP announce a CM candidate?

That will be decided by the parliamentary board.

But do you feel a chief ministerial candidate should be announced?

This differs from state to state. In many places, there are advantages to declaring a chief ministerial candidate, and in other places, there are disadvantages to it.

In recent elections, beef ban, Dadri incident and provocative statements by BJP leaders became an issue among the minorities. In UP, how will you deal with such issues?

We don’t fight elections on religious lines. If there is a trust deficit between a particular community and us, we will try to bridge it through our schemes. What do other political parties do? They create a sense of fear in the minds and hearts of the minorities. They say when the BJP comes this will happen, that will happen. I say, don’t garner votes by creating a sense of fear. Get votes by creating a sense of confidence. Several states have a BJP government. Where is any crisis for the minorities? A B Vajpayee’s government ruled for six years. Again there was no problem for minorities.

There is a view that issues like Dadri and Muzaffarnagar will keep cropping up and that the BJP would gain from this, that the Samajwadi Party too could benefit.

I want to ask why such incidents happen whenever the Samajwadi Party is in power. The BJP does not indulge in politics of polarisation. This is the truth. Politics of polarisation is only carried out by those parties that have no ideology of their own, principles of their own, or their own programmes. We still adhere to the ideology with which we began our political journey in the form of Jana Sangh. But this is not an ideology that creates divides in society. Only those who are afraid of us say it is. Our ideology unites society. Polarisation politics is carried out by our opponents.

But aren’t you benefiting from it?

I feel that even if we could benefit from politics of polarisation, we would not want to derive such benefits. We are not in politics only to form governments, we are in it to build the country.

Some in your party, such as Yogi Adityanath and Sakshi Maharaj, seem to have a different view.

I am simply stating our party’s general view.

Do you think the massive support you got in 2014 is still intact?

Yes.

So how did you lose byelections in UP?

A byelection is always won by the ruling party in the state. We had lost everything earlier, still we won 73 seats in 2014.

You have said the government will never compromise on the Sangh ideology. But you did so in J&K.

You have not understood our ideology. Our ideology is of integral humanism. We are not just concerned about India but the whole universe. Our ideology talks about relationships between man and family, man and society, man and the world and university. There is no scope for discrimination or disintegration in this. People make this allegation that we are communal. How are we communal? I have repeatedly said that Islamic State will not be able to take root in the country because Indian Muslims are steeped in its [India’s] culture.

But radicalisation has been a problem in the country since the 1990s.

There will be some radicalisation. It has happened before… For example, why was the country partitioned on religious lines?

The BJP keeps talking about a Congress-mukt Bharat. But some say there should be a national party to counter the BJP. What is your opinion?

I will just say the Congress’s support base is shrinking. Its significance is diminishing.

Who do you see as the BJP’s rival in future? A third front? Or Arvind Kejriwal?

How do I know? Who bothers about a future rival?

Kejriwal has been attacking the PM in strong language and there are such remarks from your party as well. Are you worried about the kind of language being used?

It should not happen. The PM is the leader of the country. He is an institution.

Kejriwal keeps saying he is heading a state but has no powers. He met a rape victim and said if he had the police under him, it wouldn’t have happened. Have you ever thought of putting Delhi police under Kejriwal’s government?

Has anything changed in matters that are actually under him? First do something about things you have under you. And don’t forget, it’s a Union territory and not a state. Kejriwal keeps talking about corruption. It’s been two years since our government came to power, there is not a single allegation of corruption. In his government? We all know.

Is it true that a lot of bureaucrats do not want to work with the Delhi government?

That tells you what kind of a government it is. I want to assure, as far as the Delhi government is concerned, there is and will be full cooperation from the central government.

Two contradictory public images of you have emerged — that you are steady in the ministry but also an excessively conscious administrator, because of which root reforms in the ministry whose benefits should reach citizens are not taking place. The Malimath committee’s recommendations are not being implemented. What do you have to say about this?

You spoke of reforms. I would first like to know what reforms took place in the past, and what reforms are not taking place now? Because I know this has been discussed at length. As far as police are concerned, it is a state subject and states have the main role to play. We used to provide some funds for police modernisation. The police modernisation scheme has been suspended for some time. This is because while states earlier used to get 32 per cent of central revenue, this has been increased to 42 per cent. There are several such central schemes in which allocation had come down and larger responsibility has been left to the states. There has been no fund allocation for police modernisation. How can we provide this to the states? However, on my part, I have requested the finance minister and spoken to the Prime Minister, and they have agreed in principle. We will now take it forward. It is very easy to say central schemes have been terminated, but we should also not forget that in the history of independent India, there has never been such a tremendous increase in the allocation to states from central revenue.

But why has it taken two years?

When did the 14th Finance Commission’s report come out? This has all happened only after the report.

What about corruption in the IPS?

It’s not true that only IPS officers are corrupt and there is no corruption anywhere else. At every place there are good people, and there are some bad people. I don’t think everyone in IPS is corrupt. They are also part of our society.

When you assumed office, you made announcements on risk allowance for paramilitary forces, bringing it at par for service in J&K and LWE areas. There were several other proposals from paramilitary forces, which you agreed to and forwarded in the first six months itself. Most of these proposals are still stuck with the finance ministry. Why?

This is not true. On risk allowance, the home ministry has written to the Pay Commission about facilities paramilitary forces should be given. Now the Pay Commission’s report is out, and there will be a discussion on this. A lot of issues will be resolved now. We have not been sitting on things, we have been working on them.

You and Sushma Swaraj are senior leaders of the party. But both of you make very few public statements. Why?

By nature, I speak very little. Earlier also, I never spoke too much. I don’t have the habit of commenting on issues and people unnecessarily. Whenever necessary I speak, Sushmaji too speaks.

Could L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi’s experience be put to better use?

There is still great respect for them in the party. We keep getting their guidance from time to time.

There were two recent instances of Article 356 being invoked. One is pending in court, the other has been struck down by Uttarakhand High Court with serious observations against the Centre. Was it a wrong step?

Whatever crisis precipitated in Uttarakhand, the BJP had no role to play. It was an issue within the Congress. When there was voting on the appropriation bill, nine Congress MLAs opposed it. Had they not done it, there would have been no crisis. Action was taken under Article 356… whatever was done was done under constitutional provisions. Now the issue is sub judice. In Arunachal too the Congress government fell of its own. A non-Congress government seemed to be inching towards power and we supported it, that’s all.

The BJP has consistently opposed Article 356 when in opposition.

The Congress has misused the provision the most. We have never misused it.

When Kailash Vijayvargiya travelled to Uttarakhand, he said there would be a BJP CM and it’s not part of the deal to choose a CM from among the Congress rebels.

I am not trying to defend anyone. But obviously when you see a government falling and sense an opportunity to form your own government, you make such statements.

Do you think Delhi police could have handled the JNU issue batter? Morphed videos were circulated.

All the action was taken by Delhi police. The issue is old now. Let the matter go to court. Let Delhi police file a chargesheet. If they have anything more, they will put it there. If any wrong action has been taken against anybody by Delhi police, the court will pass strictures. I cannot comment on the actions of Delhi police.

You are home minister and number two in the government. What next? What’s your ambition?

It’s not necessary that politics is done based on ambition. You should do politics to serve the nation. Only then will you stay satisfied. Or else you will keep sulking and remain frustrated. You will be finished. You don’t become great by holding on to a post. You become great through your deeds. Mahatma Gandhi did not hold any post. So it’s not necessary that whoever is working in politics has great personal ambitions. In my entire political life I have never tried to cut someone to size or pull anyone down. Nor will I ever do it.

If the party asks you, will you go back to UP?

There are too many leaders there. The central parliamentary board will decide who will be UP’s CM face.

What is the most important issue on your table today?

The era of violence must end. Be it Maoist, terrorism or any other violence.

What is the decisive change that NDA has brought about in governance in the past two years?

This is a decisive government. There is transparency. We have stopped the loot of natural resources. India’s prestige has risen in the international arena. This government has also ended economic mismanagement. Not a single allegation of corruption has been levelled against this government. To minimise corruption at grassroots level we have started direct benefit transfer. It has saved thousands of crores.

But no internal democracy in the party has been on display. There were such massive losses in Delhi and Bihar, and no questions asked.

You want us to be an indisciplined party. Questions must be asked, but within the political party, not outside.

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