How do you assess the first year of the Narendra Modi government?
There is hardly anything in the last one year which one can call takeaway for the people. His (Modi’s) election rhetoric against the Congress was that there was price rise, the borders were unsafe… he promised retrieval of black money, so and so forth. One year down the line, there is a total reversal of what he said. Never before in a one-year period were there so many ceasefire violations in J&K. The NDA was lucky enough that global crude prices have been the lowest in the past year, as a result of which prices of petrol and diesel should have not been more than Rs 40 and Rs 30 respectively. Did that happen? Had this government transferred the benefit to the people… the prices of vegetables, edibles all would have come down. But they have all gone up by 50 to 70 per cent.
The government has said its biggest achievement was the removal of corruption from India’s political lexicon.
How do scams and corruption surface? How does one get to know? There are two main tools. One is RTI. For the last one year, the CIC has been headless and some posts of commissioner are vacant. There are 39,000 applications pending for disposal. Even if they appoint, it will take two to three years to dispose of the applications. That means that towards the end of Modi’s first term, we will not get to know what is happening… Then there is no Central Vigilance Commissioner for one year. How can you take action? We passed the Lokpal Act. Where is the Lokpal now? As long as Modi is there, there will be no Lokpal, no CVC and no CIC.
The government did set up an SIT on black money.
What did Modi say during his campaign? He will bring back black money in 100 days. Now 365 days have passed and there is no clue as to how much black money is in tax havens. They say 15 or 17 crore people have opened bank accounts under Jan Dhan Yojana. Modi promised Rs 15 lakh would come in their accounts. We have heard people saying we have opened the accounts expecting the government will deposit Rs 15 lakh. They simply befooled the people.
The Congress has been aggressive in the Rajya Sabha. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has asked if “unelected” Rajya Sabha question “elected” Lok Sabha.
The Constitution has not defined one House as supreme. And it is not true that Rajya Sabha is not an elected House. In fact, it is a twice-elected House. Lok Sabha members are elected by the people; Rajya Sabha members are elected by legislators elected by the people. When Jaitely was leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha, his views were different. In 2012, he said, “There are occasions when obstruction in Parliament brings greater benefit to the country.”
The BJP says the Congress has become more left than Karl Marx.
We were left of the centre always… There is a difference between the Congress party’s definition of liberalisation and the BJP’s definition. Ours is growth-oriented but it is inclusive. They are not bothered about the poor. They are bothered about a section of India.
How do you assess Modi as PM?
With all due respect to him, he is one of the best pracharaks, national and now international. He can beat anybody in self-glorification and self-praise. He talks about his luck benefiting the people. He boasts about everything, totally ignorant about the fact that much bigger things have been done by his predecessors. He went to America and said never before was such a reception given, forgetting that when Nehru visited America the entire country was on the streets to greet him. The President was at the airport to receive him… People of that country should receive you, not people from your country whom you sent to organise that. And the way our Prime Minister behaves abroad. For the last one year, he has been abusing the Congress and the UPA on foreign soil. His recent remarks in Seoul and Shanghai are most unbecoming of a prime minister. He has said people felt ashamed for being born Indian some years ago. He must understand that he is respected wherever he goes not because he is Narendra Modi but because he is the Prime Minister of India. He was not respected till last year when he was just Narendra Modi. He was not given a visa for 12 years.
You said there is hardly anything the Modi government has done. Why didn’t the Congress take it up earlier?
We were taught by Indira Gandhi that we should always give some chance to the ruling party. This first year was a honeymoon period. That is over… Now they stand fully exposed. From now on, you will find a different type of Congress and opposition.
Is your offensive encouraged by the new aggression of Rahul Gandhi?
Well, that is a great contributory factor. He too wanted one year to be completed.
Is is time for him to take over as Congress president?
That is our internal matter. The most important thing is how the Congress is unitedly fighting as a responsible opposition both inside and outside Parliament.
Will Rahul’s elevation as Congress president give the party a new direction?
I don’t want to discuss (it) because we have a leader, the Congress president, who has very successfully guided the party in the last one-and-a-half decades. She was leader of the parliamentary party also. The way she has overseen the functioning of the party in Parliament as chairperson of the parliamentary party and taken everyone along as party president, it has been exemplary. It is for her to decide how long she wants to continue.