‘Let’s not mix up irregularity and illegality (on mining)… A day will come when we won’t have money left to pay judges’

In the concluding part of this Walk the Talk on NDTV 24x7 with The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta,Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar says the Supreme Court should have decided faster on the Goa mining stay and why every politician above 65 needs to “review his health and mental conditions”

Written by Shekhar Gupta | Published: July 2, 2013 5:18 am

Tell me your thought process when you decided to embrace the Catholics in Goa. That’s the reason you came back to power. You got more Catholics elected than the Congress party.

Yes,but even in 2002,in spite of the fact that I did not have Catholics,except for one,my policies never discriminated against them.

That’s true,but electoral politics is different. Because I would like to believe it was following this example..

How do I know about Catholics? I am a Hindu so I can indirectly represent the feelings of people of the Hindu community to the government. How do I know what they require? So that’s why I need them in the government.

I think two big changes in Indian politics have been—one,you embracing Catholics and getting them empowered…

And Muslims also.

…and in Punjab,Akali Dal similarly embracing Hindus and getting more Hindus elected than the Congress or the BJP. Those are big turning points. At the same time,you see Narendra Modi last year not giving a single ticket to Muslims in Gujarat.

Giving ticket or not giving ticket probably depends on whether you’ve got a credible face.

But you’ve to create them.

You have to create them. It’s the perception that counts. There was a perception but I think that perception is slowly changing. The younger generation among the minorities also appreciates Modi and they don’t go by the old propaganda model. I call it a propaganda model because every time you find a lady going to television channels and making some statements,trying to create confusion. Chief ministers or top officials don’t give directions on telephone continuously. The CBI—it is such a humbug investigation—they are trying to cook up evidence in the Ishrat Jahan case. You don’t give telephone calls to officers for an encounter. If you do it,you do it in private. He won’t talk on telephone because he knows telephone records remain. People are not fools. What I am trying to point out is that ultimately,this is about perception. I was able to create a proper atmosphere much before the elections.

And so was the Akali Dal in Punjab.

He (Modi) will also be able to do something at least before the elections.

Do you see Narendra Modi reaching out to Muslims?

He is. I had a talk with the Bohri community. They are very happy with him.

The Bohri community is a little more pragmatic and business-oriented,they are successful,they are rich. Their stakes are different.

I travelled in a rickshaw in Ahmedabad,incognito. I do that sometimes. The rickshaw man was a Muslim. This happened when I was the leader of Opposition,not now. And he was very positive about Narendra Modi.

Manoharji,I walked in Juhapura and I was not incognito. I did not hear this. I heard that ‘We are being excluded’. But I think Narendra bhai has to make a change in his mind. Do you think he is capable of making that change? Or is he too bitter to make that change?

He is capable and he is already moving in that direction.

Do you anticipate him saying something like you said,

explaining at least what happened in 2002 instead of hiding away from it?

I don’t think he will ever speak on it because there are too many Supreme Court cases,too many ATS and too many other things. For me to speak from the outside is a different matter but for a person inside,who is being pressured by hook or crook…Many of these investigations,if you realise,are leading nowhere except for getting some popular news. The CBI trying to frame IB,IB trying to frame CBI.

Even we have a strong editorial view on this that you don’t mess with the IB unless you have a very grave provocation and if at all you do it,it has to be cleared by the Prime Minister.

The internal differences between intelligence agencies are rising to a level where they will not give inputs. This is the Roman Empire before Caesar,where everyone tried to stab each other.

Don’t go that far. Go back to 1962. Similar things were happening and these things are disastrous. But having said that,I know what you are trying to say is that if Narendra Modi starts explaining 2002,anything he says can be misused against him in a legal case. But how does he make amends politically? Forget legally. That the legal system will take care of.

I think you should wait for one or two months.

And you think he will? He will take a leaf out of your book? Because you have become a dada now in this generational shift of the BJP.

No. I don’t consider myself having a central role but if I can contribute ideologically and to the thinking process,there is no problem.

That is because you speak your mind and you say things that everybody wants to say but doesn’t say. And the RSS loves you.

I am not attached to the post I am holding. I treat it like a shirt. I can unbutton it and however nice it may be—the post is also nice—I remove it and send it to the laundry. I don’t treat power as a part of my skin. Most of the politicians treat it as part of their skin. So when it peels off,it bleeds. I also know that a good shirt creates attachment. You don’t like to throw away a good-looking shirt. If you treat power as your skin,you will get hurt when it peels off.

You orchestrated this generational shift in the BJP. What future do you chart out for people above 65?

First of all,I only removed the bottlenecks. The way my 65-plus comment was projected by the media was not how I said it. First of all,it was a general comment; it had nothing to do with any individual. My comment was very simple. Today’s politics has become a politics of demand,people expect a lot from you. So I said that at 65,every politician should take a call and review his health and mental conditions—whether he can take that pressure based on his health and take his own call,whether he should be in electoral politics. This was related to electoral politics. That’s because if you are not in good health—and 65 is a stage where you may or may not be in good health—you should not go for electoral politics. Because then you cannot serve the people,you don’t meet their expectations and they get frustrated.

But we are pushing age by 10 years anyway. Every 10 years you push it by 10 years.

I will give you a simple example from my own experience. In 1978,after my graduation from IIT-Mumbai,I joined post-graduation in metallurgy. My mother gave me about Rs 8,000 (for a motorbike) by selling her gold bangle without telling my father. Not that my father did not have the money,but she did not want to tell him or ask him for money. I bought a Yezdi.

1978 is when I bought my first motorbike. I bought an Enfield for Rs 6,700. Yezdi was about

Rs 8,000.

Rs 7,400-something. Rs 3.50 was the cost of petrol then. When I used to ride to Borivali,to my uncle’s place,I remember on many occasions speeding up to 110 km per hour on the Western Expressway. That may not look high speed today. But with Yezdi and with that chain drive having an uncanny ability of snapping and getting stuck,that was dangerous driving. By the 1990s,when I was driving my scooter in Goa for business,before I bought my car,my maximum speed had dropped down to 80. Today if you ask me to ride a scooter,I will not go beyond 40. With age,experience tells you not to take any risk. There is a time when age tells you that extra risk of 80-110 km/hour is a reasonable risk…that was when I was 35-40.

But there is a time when age tells you to just block the lane—kisi ko side nahin di jayegee.

That is the experience of understanding politics.

Like you see written behind trucks,particularly in the north,‘side milney se di jayegee’. So many senior political veterans also go with that.

But that concept got totally destroyed when (A B) Vajpayee constructed a four-lane road.

But he did not stay long enough to construct one in the BJP. But tell me something,you talked about metallurgy. You are a metallurgist. Mining is devastated in your state. What’s the impact?

At this moment,it has been stopped by a Supreme Court order. It is funny that an interim order is valid for nine months,without hearing the state government. I only (want) a proper hearing from the Supreme Court,where we have to tell them only two facts. Number 1: I stopped mining before the Supreme Court stopped it. I was chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and I knew what was happening. I say today also that there were illegal things happening but there were legal things too. Let us not mix up irregularity and illegality. There are irregularities on many issues,I agree with them. That’s because if the government doesn’t decide—for example,lease has to be given,the government has to decide,but the government doesn’t take a decision because they consider it a cash cow. So stop illegality. I had stopped mining. The petitioner doesn’t mention that fact. I had stopped transportation. The petitioner doesn’t mention that. The interim order is still valid when mining has an impact on 25 per cent of the population and the revenue of the state.

And current account deficit.

Obviously. Where is the money going to come from?

From $9 billion exports,India is now a net iron ore importer.

It is a $15 billion hit. I think a day will come when we won’t have much money left to pay the judges also.

That’s a strong statement.

In Goa,when the Madhav Gadgil report came,I made it very clear to Dr Kasturirangan who had come here that if the report is implemented per se,I will not have money to pay salaries because there will be no economic activity in the state. You know the wildlife buffer—I know I am opening a can of worms—the basic logic is any wildlife declaration is with a core wildlife area and a buffer zone around it. So wildlife area itself includes the buffer zone. I don’t understand the logic of an additional eco-sensitive buffer zone. Because there is no end to it—why is it 100 metres,why is it 10 km,why not 20 km…? Abroad,wherever there is a national park,there are eco-friendly and wildlife-friendly barricades around it. Here,animals come into the villages,eat away the crops,injure people and create a problem. In 1995,the Godavaram case was the first instance when the issue went to the Supreme Court. Till today,no decision has come. According to me,this is not justice. Justice has to be quick.

You seem to be cross with the Supreme Court on this.

No.

Not on the view,but on the time taken.

Yes. Obviously. I feel that they should have decided the interim stay whichever way they wanted at the most in two or three months. There are 1,50,000 people who are clamouring here,these people don’t even have a representation in the Supreme Court,neither a lawyer nor a person on their behalf. The judge there may not know what the ground reality is. Justice should not only be given but also should appear to have been given. This is not the way judicial functioning of a major issue—which was delivering $5 billion in exports,when our trade balance is going negative… Why is the dollar increasing? You are importing more.

Iron and steel is a $17-18 billion hit.

Straight. That forms 10 per cent of the trade deficit.

It is a bigger self-destruction of our economy than telecom.

Yes,because telecom was only

internal.

I think in this,issues of environment and illegality have got mixed up.

I’ll put it this way. There are many players. In iron ore export,the moment Goa went out,it was a hit of about 55 million tonnes. The total Indian export was around 86-110 million tonnes. Goa is almost 60 per cent of it. There are other companies which have benefited,there are other nations which have benefited. We have lost permanent business. Long-term,Goa is a totally different story when compared to Karnataka. We have had iron ore for 60 years,no one shouted up to 2005. Only when the boom came,there was a cascading money flow.

Because too many people got too rich.

And it was because of that richness that too many people got into illegality. But you cannot throw a child with the bathwater. You cannot stop legal mining because of a few illegalities. Punish them very seriously. In 1996,I raised an issue of illegality in the power sector—manipulation. Till today,the matter is lingering in the courts. For the last five years,it is in the Supreme Court. What are we talking about judicial punishments? No punishment can take place. I fought myself,spent Rs 10 lakh on one issue to get justice for the people of this state. We gained partial recovery—Rs 62 crore. The state government gained out of it. I spent Rs 10 lakh of mine. It is not easy to fight corruption in India. Not because we have too many bribes taking place but because the guilty are not punished.

The system takes too long.

So if Supreme Court really wants reforms,they should look at the aspect of criminal justice and their own courts should finish it in the given period. Not every higher court should interfere at every stage.

That is the generational difference. People of the older generation would be a hundred times circumspect saying any of this. They would say ‘subjudice’,‘I request for an early decision…’ You are speaking from the heart.

If you really want corruption to be removed… what happened to the A Raja case? Where is it now? I’ll tell you,everyone will be dead before the case is decided.

Let’s look at Sanjay Dutt’s case. First,it was stretched on for too long,then there was a demand for mercy because the case had taken so long.

Would that treatment have been given to someone else? Why should Sanjay Dutt be treated differently? If the Supreme Court is not bothered by the economic impact of 2G,then why bother about the impact on the movie industry? You have a different set of laws and regulation for different people.

I noticed yours is an international family. Some of them were also lawbreakers.

Not lawbreakers. They were freedom fighters.

Lawbreakers in colonial times.

Both my uncles were freedom fighters. So for the Portuguese,both of them were lawbreakers.

And one of them was locked up in solitary confinement in this Reis Magos fort.

I don’t have a record but that’s what my mother told me. He was from that Azad Kranti Dal,which means he was among the more offensive and violent ones.

That’s the cell which says ‘solitary confinement cell’. What happened after that?

He was deported to Angola and insisted that he be brought back by the Portuguese. When Goa became free,he refused to come back spending his own money or his relatives’ money. He got married to a Portuguese lady. I have cousins in Angola.

And you are international also from your wife’s side?

My wife comes from Dr Kotnis’s family. My father in-law is a second cousin to Dr Kotnis.

Right now,your focus and attention is on another bhai. That’s Narendra bhai,not cousins and uncles.

My job is done. Sometimes the party comes to a logjam because of some reason. Someone else is needed to break that ice. I helped in breaking the ice. My role is over. Beyond that,I don’t think there is a bigger role for me at this stage.

Where do you see India’s politics three months from now? Right now,it looks like everybody is running away from the BJP. And third front,fourth front,fifth front,sixth front…

I don’t know if you are a student of science…

I was.

How was life formed? There was chemical chaos in the ocean. Various chemicals came together and went away. Finally,a set of chemicals came together which could multiply themselves,replicate themselves. I think we are in that process of formation of life in Indian politics.

Something will emerge from this chaos.

It is not chaos. It is a churning. Ultimately,there has to be a government after the elections and the target of every group is to maximise their number because that is how you have a bargain. Now Sharad Pawar is trying to see if he can go above 10 or 12,13 so that he has his bargain. Mulayam thinks that if I have to stay out of jail,I have to get at least 30 seats in UP. Otherwise,the ruling party will not allow. Now,the ruling party is virtually manipulating the CBI to get his support. Unless you have some stand,you don’t escape that fate.

When everybody is making his move,the BJP has made its move and you are the man who at least catalysed it. You will admit to that. You broke the ice,as you said.

I helped break the ice.

So Manohar Parrikar,you already are a bigger player in national politics than anybody from your state has ever been or perhaps can claim to be.

Because the state is too small. Ultimately in politics,you require

support.

Also because you are happy to speak like a Goan. That makes a difference.

I believe there needs to be ice-breaking,but you can’t go on with a hammer every time. Then you break more than the ice. I also believe in party discipline. Since they came to Goa,I had to play some role.

You can now sit back and watch the fun for some time.

No,no. I am not watching the fun.

And as things turn bigger,maybe we can have more conversations. Thank you for taking the time and thank you for choosing such a wonderful venue. Also,what a great job you’ve done of restoring it.

(Concluded)

Transcribed by Biswa Yonzon

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