August 24, 2009 3:27:12 am
Expelled from the BJP after being associated with the party for three decades,former Union minister and Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh says he has been wounded by his own kith and kin. In this interview with The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV 24×7s Walk the Talk,Jaswant Singh talks about the rise of sycophancy and moral decadence in the party,the sting operation during the vote of confidence,the Kandahar hijack,and how he persuaded Vajpayee not to resign after the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Shekhar Gupta: Hello and welcome to walk the talk and without wasting any time let me turn to my guest this week,Mr Jaswant Singh.
Jaswant Singh: Hello Shekhar
Shekhar Gupta: welcome to walk the talk. How grateful I am you found time. I know you have a lot to do
Jaswant Singh: Thank you
Shekhar Gupta: You mind if I describe you as one of our most famous victims of friendly fire
Jaswant Singh: Its perhaps not friendly fire. I have been wounded by my own kith and kin. So friendly fire has a different connotation as a literary term. Its accidental
Shekhar Gupta: Unintended
Jaswant Singh: Unintended. This is not friendly fire. This is something like what I am not alluding to it because it is a connotation Winston Churchill once said,No,no,no these are not, pointing to the opposition benches,these are not my enemies,look behind,they are sitting behind me. I ve been wounded,injured,and expelled by kith and kin. Not by friendly fire
Shekhar Gupta: I hope now you dont get punished for quoting Winston Churchill
Jaswant Singh: Why should I be
Shekhar Gupta: Because now its become dangerous to talk of figures from history
Jaswant Singh: Shekhar,the day as a country,you,in fact though you say it lightheartedly,you question a deep and serious import,the day a country and a people,irrespective to whether it is us or any other country begins to imagine history,create an illusory history,back,to create as we were talking earlier,create a history based on cults
Shekhar Gupta: Right ..
Jaswant Singh: and cult figures,as you said yourself,both living and dead,what are we now? The challenge to us in India today. I really think we have to reflect on it very deeply is not of discovering a new iconography. We have to learn to be iconoclasts and we have to destroy a great many of the cults that have come around,come up around living and around dead people. I wont name any. Unless we do that how can you enter the 21st century?
Shekhar Gupta: Because most of our political parties today you cant question the leaders of today. But now you are coming to a state when you cant question the leaders of the past
Jaswant Singh: So you begin to shut doors to everything
Shekhar Gupta: Right
Jaswant Singh: But a very limited thought of today and that limited thought of today,doesnt want to read,it doesnt want to dicscuss,it wants no discourse,its diktat is issued. What sort of a nation are we?
Shekhar Gupta: xxxxxx???
Jaswant Singh: My god! Please,dont describe us as XXXX (3:20) because it would be disastrous.
Shekhar Gupta: Because the mindset is the same
Jaswant Singh: You know what is the point,what is the point my dear friend for us to be eulogizing and praising that great piece of poetry by Rabindranath Tagore where the head is held high
Shekhar Gupta: and the mind is without fear
Jaswant Singh: and the mind is without fear. How do you hold your head high if you are constantly being asked to look down. And how can the mind be without fear if the foundation of your discipline and party,a political party,becomes fear? This is very dangerous
Shekhar Gupta: Have you seen fear in the BJP?
Jaswant Singh: Oh yes. Oh yes.
Shekhar Gupta: Since when?
Jaswant Singh: I dont want to appear as I am tattling but the fear has actually come into the BJP thinking and uttering. Because I have lived and grown,Ive been in politics for 42 years now
Shekhar Gupta: You have been in the Army and then politics
Jaswant Singh: Thats it. Thats all Ive done in my life. I joined the BJP when it was found. There was no fear,Atalji,there was no fear,fear began to come up because we wanted something. And that want,that hunger for office
Shekhar Gupta: As long as there was nothing to lose there was no fear
Jaswant Singh: There was fight,for a right,to dissent. If the party was basing its political activism on the right to disagree with the ruling establishment,Congress,ruling,this is wrong with you and they couldnt very well be committing wrong with themselves. But office was,power is a very different word,office and power,unability and patronage turned their heads
Shekhar Gupta: Can I try and put words in your mouth? You can always say no. would you say that the fear factor increased with the sort of retirement of Mr Vajpayee from active politics
Jaswant Singh: Oh yes,that was a change. Can I say something in Hindi though this is a There is a very fine saying,its Rahims saying,Chaha mitti,chintha gatti,manuvaaha,bhiparuvaha,jisko kachunachaahiye,shaahan ke shah. Now there was a period,even in Kerala for example,the BJP has a purity,because it is struggling. Uptill we were struggling and not gained office there was a purity in our endeavours
Shekhar Gupta: Because there were no hankerings
Jaswant Singh: No hankerings
Shekhar Gupta: Chaha gatti,what he means when hankering goes
Jaswant Singh: Also,there was much less sycophancy. We could say what we wanted to. We could disagree
Shekhar Gupta: But see power came when Mr Vajpayee was there. Was there sycophancy then?
Jaswant Singh: No,there was no I mean I didnt come across any instances,because the fundamental of his personality is integrative,accommodative. He knew how to manage differences. He had started the experimenting,experiment of bringing together,even before the NDA,Late Choudhary Charan Singhji,that experiment started,Choudhary saab went okay,so we couldnt
Shekhar Gupta: So the sycophancy came in after Mr Vajpayee or were there signs of it earlier also
Jaswant Singh: No the signs came to there were signs of it earlier. The rot began to and quite often I told Atalji. Atalji bhimari ghar kar rahi hein and he said haan,kar rahi,par kya karu. He had to carry,because I dont want to name political parties,it was a highly successful six years of NDA government. Even though I say it myself Shekhar it was a very successfully run coalition. What did we not contend with,I dont want to list it
Shekhar Gupta: Three near wars actually
Jaswant Singh: yes
Shekhar Gupta: One bad drought,very bad drought,worse than this
Jaswant Singh: Also,cyclone,earthquake,two earthquakes,Gujarat and Kashmir
Shekhar Gupta: Thats right
Jaswant Singh: So it wasnt as if,and the factor of externally encouraged terrorism was at its height. But despite that the integrative nature,accommodative nature of Mr Vajpayee was sufficiently strong to depite all this,in Srinagar,to invite Gen Musharaff
Shekhar Gupta: And he took you by surprise with that
Jaswant Singh: Yes it did. But he had at a luncheon,Advaniji was present,I was present,and he had said I am going to Srinagar
Shekhar Gupta: The same day
Jaswant Singh: Haan,Srinagar jaa rahe the
Shekhar Gupta: Jaate raaste. So its not as if he had discussed this is the cabin
Jaswant Singh: No,the three of us was there
Shekhar Gupta: It was an instinctive call
Jaswant Singh: Thats right
Shekhar Gupta: Now sir,hypothetical. But since you analyse history hypothetical questions are fine,a fair game. How would Mr Vajpayee have handled this situation
Jaswant Singh: Oh,he would have heard everyone talk,there was no harm
Shekhar Gupta: He would have certainly let you come in for the meeting
Jaswant Singh: Why,why go over it
Shekhar Gupta: Lets engage on this
Jaswant Singh: I had,yes certainly,you mean,I dont think so,at least I dont think so that I have written a flippant book. I have received accolades from those that have read this book from Pakistan. Its ironic. Hamid Haroon,one of the discussants,said at a private dinner just before leaving that fear that the book would set the streets of Pakistan on fire. And I am astonished that India is setting itself on fire
Shekhar Gupta: Not India,only your party. Now I am pushing the envelope on the Vajpayee question,if Mr Vajpayee was in Shimla,would he still have tried to reconcile it
Jaswant Singh: He had a great sense of humour. He could detense the tensest of sitations. Whether in parliament or in party meetings,he used to quip or so,just a little,some joke
Shekhar Gupta: I remember when Uma Bharti said,aapne mujhe ghar se nikaal diya so he said ghar se thoda kaaryalay se nikaal diya
Jaswant Singh: Because he was truly,he is truly,now he cant speak so clearly,what you said,quick-witted. He is very quick-witted
Shekhar Gupta: Do you remember any of those,when he defused a situation
Jaswant Singh: When you ask like that,its very difficult to suddenly remember because they come of their own. But he would have ..
Shekhar Gupta: He would have at least come in and be heard
Jaswant Singh: He would have permitted a discussion
Shekhar Gupta: Right
Jaswant Singh: What is wrong? What is it in the book that has troubled anybody? You cant have a situation in which to use the work Jinnah is somehow sacrilege? Sacrilege? My dear colleagues used the word great sacrilege. Astonishing! What are we,a mutt,a sect or a political party? A political party is a unity,where a group of people come together through free discussion. You dont commit a great sacrilege .
Shekhar Gupta: Also interesting because the ban has come from somebody I am sure you and Mr Vajpayee has had a lot of discussion about. Intolerance has to reside some place and its the same whether it is to a religion,or an idea,or a book
Jaswant Singh: I am saddened,you know this irony,that the book has been banned in Gujarat. Tell you the irony of it is there are four very prominent personalities who played a very great role in the freedom struggle and independence and the partition of the country. Three out of the four were from Gujarat. Two of them were katyavadi,the third was a gujarati
Shekhar Gupta: Right
Jaswant Singh: They accommodated dissent,they disagreed,argued. You should read in this book the correspondents I have cited on the question of dominion status between Jawaharlal Nehru and Gandhi. And Gandhi is advocating,this is 1920s,it was a time when India could have got Dominion staus,independence in that day. Belford declared it. Gandhiji was all for dominion status because he had the experience of dominion status in south Africa. The entire organs,the instruments of governance,the courts of law,house of commons,al that were the dealings. Jawaharlal Nehru had just come back from a European tour,he was full of the fire of socialism,new found socialism. Madhulimay also writes about it
Shekhar Gupta: And sovereignty full sovereignty
Jaswant Singh: Full sovereignty. Poorna Swaraj. There were only minor dissentions. But that series of letters is marvelous to read now. I wrote a letter and I am found fault with. Gandhi and Jinnah sat together for three weeks in Bombay. And yet,discussing throughout the day,in the evening they might exchange a note or a letter
Shekhar Gupta: Right. And you got punished for writing one
Jaswant Singh: Yes
Shekhar Gupta: You know the ban in Gujarat,Narendra Modi is alos a Gujarati leader,a very prominent Gujarati leader
Jaswant Singh: Indeed,without doubt
Shekhar Gupta: Let me,may be little bit out of context,but not fully out of context. Let me take you back to that one moment when Mr Vajpayee came close to sacking him and what happened? Did I remind you of that flight to Goa?
Jaswant Singh: I know,I know
Shekhar Gupta: for the BJP executive meeting
Jaswant Singh: you see the difficulty people like me face who are expelled,expelled,school boys expelled
Shekhar Gupta: You may well have a class of expelled school boys,you may not be the only one
Jaswant Singh: We were in the aircraft together because Atalji had asked me to accompany him,there were somet things to discuss,so had he asked Advaniji and if I remember correctly,because Arun Shourie,because some issues were to be finalised,and in that Advaniji very kindly shared with me thinking on who was to succeed Janakrishna Murthy as BJP President and a consesnsus was arrived at between three of us that it should be Venkaiah Naidu. And the procedure of how we do it,etc and Janakrishna Murthy must be told and the courtesy must be shown to him fully etc. a courtesy I though I might hadve had,bnut that is a different matter. And decisions were taken about who should be the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh because that was to be changed
Shekhar Gupta: Uma Bharti was chosen
Jaswant Singh: Umas name then came up and we all agreed. All that was Rajes game,I suggest it was Rajes game
Shekhar Gupta: In Rajasthan? As leader of the party?
Jaswant Singh: Yes because elections had yet to come. But we said we should announce in advance and I said you announce
Shekhar Gupta: I think Mr Vajpayee was worried you were sending to a minefield
Jaswant Singh: He was,he said kaahaan bej rahi hein vasu kho. Bade gaadh bhaiten hein. If I remember his exact words
Shekhar Gupta: Almost like it is a crocodile pit
Jaswant Singh: Thats right. And then of course he said that
Shekhar Gupta: Its come so tryue now
Jaswant Singh: After a few moments of silence he said,Gujarat ka kya karna hein? because the incidents in Gujarat were .
Shekhar Gupta: The riots were in fact were very fresh at that point
Jaswant Singh: They were burning in the hearts of the people
Shekhar Gupta: Thats right
Jaswant Singh: Both ways. The burning of the bogie,the killing of other citizens,the sectarianism of it,the communal nature of it. So there was silence for some time and when we said Gujarat ke bare mein sochna chaahiye. Atalji had a way of never directly,other than me,he often told me,aisa hoga. I would disagree ye teek nahin,aap galat kar rahe hein,aapko teek nahi laga,tho kyo kehte ho mujhe. Because what I am saying is right. He would agree. There was silence
Shekhar Gupta: So he allowed you to disagree with him
Jaswant Singh: He always allowed me to disagree. Even in cabinet meetings,in cabinet committee on security,I dont what to say those issues I disagreed on because that is a different matter altogether. But on this particular issue,then Advaniji went to the bathroom or something
Shekhar Gupta: on the plane..
Jaswant Singh: yeah on the plane
Shekhar Gupta: Its a tiny 737
Jaswant Singh: Its not very big. Atalji then said,poochiye kya karna which he implied I went and asked Advaniji. Advaniji said only one phrase bawaal kada ho jaayega
Shekhar Gupta: You mean therell be rebellion in the party if you sack Modi
Jaswant Singh: Bawaal means commotion. Bawaal kada ho jaayega party mein. But when we landed there was already a certain kind of atmosphere prevailing so this issue,on that occasion,did not get taken
Shekhar Gupta: So would it be correct to say that Mr Vajpayee would have been inclined to act on Modi but Mr Advani said if you act there would be commotion in the party which may be uncalled for so lets not do it
Jaswant Singh: Factually,factually,to the best of my recollection,yes,this was the conversation and this would be the interpretation
Shekhar Gupta: So Vajpayee would have liked to sack Narendra Modi as Chief Minister
Jaswant Singh: I might not use the word sack
Shekhar Gupta: to take action
Jaswant Singh: But certainly for the party to reflect,take some corrective measure
Shekhar Gupta: But Mr Advani came to Narendra Modis defence
Jaswant Singh: I think that is correct,that is correct
Shekhar Gupta: Right
Jaswant Singh: That is correct
Shekhar Gupta: And who do you think was right,instinctively as a politician,Mr Vajpayee or Mr Advani
Jaswant Singh: I think when Atalji spoke of raj dharm. Some months later he spoke of Raj dharm. That is the fundamental litmus test. If you ask me what is right or wrong,the only litmus test is raj dharm
Shekhar Gupta: Once again I am pushing it,so Ataljis instinct you think in retrospect was correct. Or you think then also it was correct?
Jaswant Singh: No,no. not in retrospect. I thought that was correct
Shekhar Gupta: Then alos..
Jaswant Singh: Then also
Shekhar Gupta: So he was hobbled
Jaswant Singh: No,he never pushed beyond a point. I dont think hobbled is the right phrase. But he never really pushed his views beyond a certain point
Shekhar Gupta: So he gave Mr Advani that space
Jaswant Singh: Oh,absolutely,always. He always did and Advaniji also. Advaniji also deferred to Atalji. I just,circumstances had given me great responsibility and access. But he never really,am relatively a much younger man than him,I could disagree,thump the table and say Atalji aap galat kar rahe hein
Shekhar Gupta: And he never expelled you from his cabinet or household
Jaswant Singh: For example,I was shifted from South Block to North Block and for 15 days I kept saying humko kahaa bhej rahe hein Atalji humne kabhi bheithe rakhe nahi,I dont keep accounts. Then people started saying its not good policy to keep arguing with prime ministers beyond a certain point. He permitted free discussion. He permitted free discussion inside the cabinet. I remember as Finance Minister,one particular point,I wont say what it was if you dont mind I disagreed vehemently in the Cabinet meeting. With Atalji and Advaniji,both of them pleading. Ultimatley Atalji said,concluding the discussion,unless the Finance Minister assents,I cannot give this decision.
Shekhar Gupta: But going back to the Modi issue. Its become relevant today because hes the first off the block
Jaswant Singh: First off the block for what?
Shekhar Gupta: for banning the book because more might follow.
Jaswant Singh: Common,please
Shekhar Gupta: Who knows,this is India. Congress party in Gujarat has backed the ban,so what is one to say in this?
Jaswant Singh: Theyve backed the ban?
Shekhar Gupta: Backed the ban,so
Jaswant Singh: Oh heaven. You know what this demonstrates is yet again,if I might put it,in vernacular Hindia,vote aur vichaar ko aap kharaju mein rak kar ke,paladon par,vote ko kahi bhaari banaade aur vichaar kho bilkul halka banaade
Shekhar Gupta: Tho desh ka diwaara niklega
Jaswant Singh: Niklega. Jahaan vichaar shoonya ho gaya hein vaha raj kaaj kaise hoga
Shekhar Gupta: So Mr Vajpayee was deeply disturbed,I also met him many times those days in the Gujarat riot days,he was deeply disturbed,he did not sleep well
Jaswant Singh: No he continued to remain disturbed. I mean its over,lets forget it.
Shekhar Gupta: But it was there. This is also history,its a bit contemporary,but its history
Jaswant Singh: Of course
Shekhar Gupta: Thats why I am not pulling away from this. Were you witness,I am sure you were witness to a situation where out of sheer exasperation,he actually wrote out his resignation?
Jaswant Singh: Oh yes
Shekhar Gupta: He did Mr Vajpayee
Jaswant Singh: He did. Pramod was there,late Pramod
Shekhar Gupta: In his office?
Jaswant Singh: This is Prime Ministers parliamentary office
Shekhar Gupta: When Parliament was in session
Jaswant Singh: It was in session. I dont remember the exact context but he wrote it. Pramod called me from the House. Jaldi aayiye Jaswantji. I didnt know what had happened but if am summoned to the Prime Ministers office,I would naturally leave. So I went in,I was told sambhaaliye,sambhaaliye istifat de rahe hein. You dont mind my speaking in Hindi?
Shekhar Gupta: Not at all
Jaswant Singh: So I went in,hed called in his secretary but ideally I told the secretary to go away and I told him not to come back. He asked me kya kar rahe hein,rather sternly,which he never was ordinarily
Shekhar Gupta: He asked you?
Jaswant Singh: Asked me. Yein kya kar rahe ho?
Shekhar Gupta: He was determined to resign at that moment?
Jaswant Singh: no,it was a very impertinent thing on my part to go inside the Prime ministers office and tell the PMs secretary would you leave. So he pulled a piece of paper and he started writing his resignation by hand. Do you know Shekhar
Shekhar Gupta: Because he was dictating it to his secretary and you had shooed him away
Jaswant Singh: He started writing by hand and god is my witness,there is no exaggeration,I held his hand and he looked at me severely and he said kya karre ho. I said Atalji aap math kariye. Chod dho. And somehow I persuaded,went to his house,we were somehow able to defuse the situation
Shekhar Gupta: And where was that resignation?
Jaswant Singh: No it was torn up
Shekhar Gupta: Did you tear it up?
Jaswant Singh: oh I forget it
Shekhar Gupta: Did you ever talk to Mr Vajpayee and did you joke about this? That you were doing it in a fit of anger
Jaswant Singh: Subsequently I did tell him. He wouldnt comment,but he would laugh
Shekhar Gupta: He was not given to emotional outbursts or reactions like Nehru sometimes was
Jaswant Singh: He is a very deeply emotional man. He is given to outbursts of emotion
Shekhar Gupta: Hell be unhappy about whats happened now
Jaswant Singh: I dont know. Why involve him? Hes now retired from
Shekhar Gupta: But I am sure he will be. You know he might have problems speaking but his mind is very alert
Jaswant Singh: Anything that is damaging to the party will trouble him. Before going to Shimla,I had gone to call on him and I had presented him with a Hindi and English edition of my book. And he had looked at them with great curiosity and interest
Shekhar Gupta: And you are going to see him again now?
Jaswant Singh: Yes,yes. I am not going to go and talk about Shimla or anything
Shekhar Gupta: Have you and Mr Advani talked over the past 4-5 days since the book came out
Jaswant Singh: No,I am sure he did not because that is one of my great regrets. Rajnathji only called to say dont come to the meeting and I said if you like Ill go back. Thats about 10.30 in the morning and,no,Ill call you,Ill call you and about 1 oclock or so he called to say aapko party se nishkarshit kar diya hein. That is all. So I said Acha hota,aap ya advaniji mujhe bulaathe bath kar lethe. Phir kabhi baat kaarunga
Shekhar Gupta: But before Shimla did you and Advani have a conversation since the book came out
Jaswant Singh: Oh yes
Shekhar Gupta: Did he have a view on the book
Jaswant Singh: I presented his the book
Shekhar Gupta: Did he have a view
Jaswant Singh: I dont know. He never said anything to me. I invited him to the launch of the book on 17th. So in fact we had a meeting on some issue or the other on the 16th in the party meeting. I dont remember what it was,perhaps it was the Rajasthan issue and some issue relating to selecting candidates for Arunachal. First we discussed Rajasthan issue,and then Arunachal candidates. But I had a doctors appointment so I couldnt stay beyond a point,so I bid Rajnathji,I sought his permission and I bid Advaniji good-bye and as I was leaving he said I am sorry I cant come at the launch tomorrow,I am going to Chandigarh. I said but Ive sent you the copies,you got them and he said yes I got them. Its not as if,there was no secret
Shekhar Gupta: Would you say and do you regret that he did not assert his authority at this expulsion
Jaswant Singh: No I dont,and frankly I am beyond regret
Shekhar Gupta: Not regret,analysis
Jaswant Singh: I am sorry. He is the seniormost in the party. Not for me personally,not necessary,not at all necessary. But it would have been good if he had asserted the morality of the whole question. Advaniji is himself an author. I was present at the launch of his book. I was one of the speakers. At that dais I had announced,Mohanji Bhagwat everybody,that I am writing a book on Jinnah. This was not a secret
Shekhar Gupta: So you wish that he had at least read the book and taken a
Jaswant Singh: I dont know if he read the book but he knew Rajnath Singh ji said
Shekhar Gupta: Does it diminish himself by being a silent spectator
Jaswant Singh: Dont ask me
Shekhar Gupta: No,I have to
Jaswant Singh: you have to Then I have to say it is morally diminishing and that one line of Urdu shahir,saahil par baite,baite majdaan ki batein karti thi. You cant sit on the shore and talk of the mid-stream
Shekhar Gupta: That means,if I translate this,this is very subtle Urdu,that if you want to be a big leader you have to take a tide at the flood
Jaswant Singh: No,that is one. But I think a big leader,if you have to lead the nation,then you cannot avoid or evade questions of morality. I think it is immoral..
Shekhar Gupta: Or any tough question
Jaswant Singh: But my dear Shekhar governance is a choice always a choice between two extremely tough questions. A tough right and a tough slightly right. Or tough right and tough wrong.
Shekhar Gupta: Or a tough right and a tougher more right
Jaswant Singh: Thats right
Shekhar Gupta: Did you see this in Mr Advanis personality
Jaswant Singh: Advanis personality earlier I did see it. I had great admiration for that personality. It slowly got corroded
Shekhar Gupta: And something changed?
Jaswant Singh: Yes
Shekhar Gupta: In the run up to this election?
Jaswant Singh: This was a very badly handled election. I think Advaniji became,I go back again to chaahamitti chintha katti,perhaps he aspired too much
Shekhar Gupta: Just the allurement,the real possibility of the prime ministership
Jaswant Singh: It would be to anybody
Shekhar Gupta: But are you saying that blunted is basic instinct
Jaswant Singh: I dont know. Its not a question,its judgemental
Shekhar Gupta: We can be judgemental or make too many compromises
Jaswant Singh: He certainly did. Because what came in,in the party was a kind of sycophancy,sickeningly so,which robbed the party of the backbone of its moral authority
Shekhar Gupta: Do you remember any instances of that?
Jaswant Singh: Dont ask me that?
Shekhar Gupta: When you asked why has this happened,why has this happened? Did you ever point this out to Mr Advani
Jaswant Singh: Oh yes I did
Shekhar Gupta: That this is going too far
Jaswant Singh: I did
Shekhar Gupta: Did you say we are becoming like the Congress
Jaswant Singh: Oh yes,that also I have said. But there were occasions when I was very very deeply disturbed
Shekhar Gupta: Why dont you tell us one odd?
Jaswant Singh: Like this whole instance of bringing money into Parliament .and there was some strange fellow,I dont recollect his name,he was introduced and he was going to find out and what is this called
Shekhar Gupta: Sting operation .So who was this strange fellow
Jaswant Singh: Some Muslim something some Hindustani,some pseudonym and he came here
Shekhar Gupta: To your place?
Jaswant Singh: Yes,yes. With Sudheendhr..
Shekhar Gupta: Kulkarni?
Jaswant Singh: yes. I remember very well Arun Shourie also called in,Arun this is disaster. He said lets go and tell Atalji
Shekhar Gupta: Aap ne you said its wrong to carry out this sting operation
Jaswant Singh: Absolutely. And I told Advaniji please dont associate yourself with it,I went to the extent of going to his house and saying I never drink before sun-down .
Shekhar Gupta: Ive been very fishy of your hospitality
Jaswant Singh: I am an advocate,if I drink,I dont pretend that I dont drink. Thats why I pleaded the cause of whisky drinkers. Actually I was so disturbed and I told Advaniji
Shekhar Gupta: This was before the sting,this was when the sting was being planned
Jaswant Singh: Thats right and Advaniji I am so disturbed by the sheer personality of this man that I have today taken a drink in the day time before coming to meet you. I said so
Shekhar Gupta: But you dont remember who the man was?
Jaswant Singh: Arey baba,its a very funny name he said. Youll find his name if you go back on those records. Something Hindustani,Raja Hindustani or some such thing. This is the only time Ive met him
Shekhar Gupta: So let me get this clear. Mr Advani and all of you knew beforehand that a sting was being carried out,the bjp leadership
Jaswant Singh: No,no I dont know about all of you
Shekhar Gupta: No,no,you knew it,you told Arun Shourie
Jaswant Singh: Arun knew,because we met here
Shekhar Gupta: Right,and Sudheendhr was here,and you went and cautioned Mr Advani that this is not a wise thing to do
Jaswant Singh: I did so also in his own parliament office
Shekhar Gupta: Right
Jaswant Singh: Ye math kariye
Shekhar Gupta: And what was his response
Jaswant Singh: He kept quiet,he kept quiet
Shekhar Gupta: So now Congress party will not turn around and say,look we always said that this was a BJP sting,a BJP-blessed sting
Jaswant Singh: But I dont know the sting,who organized the sting,whether it was BJP
Shekhar Gupta: But you knew,you were told that this was going to be done and you disagreed
Jaswant Singh: I was told this is happening and I disagreed
Shekhar Gupta: And you think Mr Advani made an error of judgment on this
Jaswant Singh: Oh yes,I think it was a gross error
Shekhar Gupta: At that point,it brought the govt into disrepute
Jaswant Singh: Well,I dont know if it brought us any
Shekhar Gupta: It muddied the governments victory
Jaswant Singh: Did it? It made no difference to the electoral result
Shekhar Gupta: No in fact it made the opposite difference? If you go into the election against an incumbent as a recent loser you are in trouble. Because you went into this election as a loser of this vote of confidence
Jaswant Singh: It was a great error of judgment
Shekhar Gupta: And was it discussed later? That what did we get from this sting?
Jaswant Singh: I think only casually. Thats why I say,somewhere in the essence of it the moral purity of the BJP which was earlier .
Shekhar Gupta: Because you know,you have been a soldier,an officer,there was a moral dimension to leadership
Jaswant Singh: Of course,there is. How else
Shekhar Gupta: If you commanded a company as a major,why would 200 people follow you up a mountain not knowing what lies ahead?
Jaswant Singh: One of the most difficult questions to answer why does a soldier agree to die
Shekhar Gupta: Exactly. Because he trusts his leader
Jaswant Singh: Thats right
Shekhar Gupta: so thats the moral dimension to leadership
Jaswant Singh: There is a moral dimension in politics in political leadership. You have to inspire
Shekhar Gupta: Did your party fail that test on the sting,particularly?
Jaswant Singh: I think so
Shekhar Gupta: This is trick
Jaswant Singh: Well,thats what it was . Why . I am sure the media was also involved in this
Shekhar Gupta: Yes,but dont judge us by the same standards as a public life
Jaswant Singh: No,I dont. you are commentators on public life
Shekhar Gupta: There was a vigorous debate in the media,I mean,there is a vigorous debate in the media about stings. But we are going back to
Jaswant Singh: No,no,I am not .
Shekhar Gupta: We are going back to the larger political issue
Jaswant Singh: There is a larger political issue
Shekhar Gupta: Errors of judgment being made,in this case by Mr Advani because of a certain haste or because of a certain desperation or because of a certain impatience to get power
Jaswant Singh: I dont know,this is a question you must ask him
Shekhar Gupta: Since we talked about this? Chintha badi,phir galtiya badi?
Jaswant Singh: Its a question of gaining electoral advantage
Shekhar Gupta: But let me oversimplify it. Did it come from Mr Advani allowing himself to be surrounded by too many people who believe in sort of operations
Jaswant Singh: I dont know who the author of this sting was. I frankly dont. because I wasnt taken into confidence at the beginning stage. I just accidentally stumbled upon it
Shekhar Gupta: Because one way of winning elections is the old fashioned way of building an agenda and a campaign
Jaswant Singh: Yeah the old fashioned,as no longer fashionable
Shekhar Gupta: Because in this election campaign,although you were campaigning far away,but you were also campaigning all over India,it was quite evidentthat you never attacked the Prime Minister
Jaswant Singh: Why should I attack the Prime Minister? Why?
Shekhar Gupta: Weakest Prime Minister,real powere is in 10,Janpath. Which is now being seen as one of the fundamental errors of this campaign
Jaswant Singh: But they,dont ask me about BJP. Its their lookout
Shekhar Gupta: But you never attacked? So you had disagreement with that strategy
Jaswant Singh: I do. Bu then I was no longer being consulted,so I
Shekhar Gupta: but how can someone as senior as you not be consulted
Jaswant Singh: Ab kya zaroorat hei. The reality matters Shekhar. There is again a Rahim kirti seek thakuth deejiye jaako seek sohay
Shekhar Gupta: Somebody doesnt like your advice,why give it to him. You might get socked in the face for giving it to him
Jaswant Singh: Good or bad
Shekhar Gupta: But at least honest advice
Jaswant Singh: yes,but I was very deeply disturbed by that man. I still am. He says I have an apartment here,and members of Parliament come and I can
Shekhar Gupta: So this is obviously some Delhi fixer,some disrespectable delhi fixer
Jaswant Singh: Delhi is full of fixers
Shekhar Gupta: Yeah,so he is one of those
Jaswant Singh: I think,I am not sure
Shekhar Gupta: Pitching is your strategy on a vote of confidence which you know you are going to lose
Jaswant Singh: On a fixer?
Shekhar Gupta: On a fixer who can turn the other side
Jaswant Singh: Idid really tell Advaniji you dissociate yourself from it
Shekhar Gupta: But he didnt say yes or no,or did he?
Jaswant Singh: He didnt.
Shekhar Gupta: Or did he say Jaswantji aap purane samaaneke hein
Jaswant Singh: He didnt
Shekhar Gupta: aap koyi baat samaj ne aayegi
Jaswant Singh: No,he kept quiet and I cant push beyond a point
Shekhar Gupta: The very idea of that vote of confidence did the BJP push it too far?
Jaswant Singh: Its over
Shekhar Gupta: No,strategically did the BJP push it too far?
Jaswant Singh: I think so
Shekhar Gupta: Because the whole opposition to the nuclear deal there seemed to be no intellectual heart in it
Jaswant Singh: No there wasnt because there might be rationale upto a point and we were not the only ones,we didnt have the strength to do it,electoral strength. Vote of no confidence,this was really a vote of no confidence on a foreign policy issue and foreign policy issues aare never straight line issues
Shekhar Gupta: Right. Thats the whole point. They are very nuanced.
Jaswant Singh: They are so nuanced that the phrase of it is important,every phrase
Shekhar Gupta: Every word because,every coma,every semi-colon. Di you have a straight line agreement with the parties opposing the nuclear deal or did you have a more nuanced position?
Jaswant Singh: Look everybody used to ask me I am committed to the sovereign decision making right of my country and I had shared this so often that I cannot consent to be a victim of nuclear apartheid
Shekhar Gupta: But you were assigned something broadly similar
Jaswant Singh: I DONT know the details of the discussion or negotiation but I would have certainly tried and carried the entire parliament. If a little time was needed,I would have rushed it to the republican government. Now we face a different problem,the problem is it would reviewed next year
Shekhar Gupta: Again you will need everybodys consensus
Jaswant Singh: Absolutely
Shekhar Gupta: I am coming back to this. Your disagreement then is so much fundamentally with the deal or the way the government tried not to take the whole parliament along
Jaswant Singh: Of course,unless you do the second you dont correct the first. Theres the details of it which troubled,I dont want to go into the details
Shekhar Gupta: But the fundamentals of it you dont have an issue
Jaswant Singh: How can you today not work with the greatest military,technology,industrial,economic and sadly a cultural power? It is the American culture that invades us today coco cola,all this music,what a sad thing
Shekhar Gupta: Television
Jaswant Singh: but these are realities and certainly transfer of technology we cant continue to be,we
Its good to keep talking
Shekhar Gupta: And to break the barriers
Jaswant Singh: Of course,dont take what you cant adopt,accept or the price,not in money terms alone,but the cost of it. No country Shekhar today,no country,not even the superpower,not Russia
Shekhar Gupta: Can blackball any other country
Jaswant Singh: One. Two,go and occupy it. Three,is hundred per cent self-sufficient in military or strategic equipment
Shekhar Gupta: Even manpower
Jaswant Singh: Manpower
Shekhar Gupta: So now lets leave for the campaign
Jaswant Singh: Oh
Shekhar Gupta: Where were you when the Varun Gandhi speech happened
Jaswant Singh: I was in Darjeeling
Shekhar Gupta: And what was your first reaction
Jaswant Singh: I said what madness is in the young man. Why is he doing it? Somebody asked me,kyon kar rahe hein,I said my charitable interpretation is that he is trying to win the attention of the media. I dont believe he was believing in what he was saying
Shekhar Gupta: And the way the party responded
Jaswant Singh: It was wrong
Shekhar Gupta: Back to battle stations,
Jaswant Singh: It was wrong. It should have been clear. Its either this or that. it ended up being neither. You say no no we are with Vishwendra Kaushishkar,which I am not. Once they said I am not a Hindu,Ive lived in a village,my family has lived there Shekhar since 1092,its a long time to live,and we faced all the,we are directly on the route of all the invasions. I dont want any confirmant of the title Hindu from Vishwendra Kaushishkar. So if you want to be an extension
Shekhar Gupta: But it did damage the party in the election
Jaswant Singh: I think it lost us the support of about not just the Muslim vote,but alos the Christian vote. There was one of our candidates here in east Delhi also
Shekhar Gupta: All the minorities got fed up. Did you try to mention this to Rajnathji or Advaniji
Jaswant Singh: is pe behes huyi thi. Discussison lot of people expressed difficulty
Shekhar Gupta: But Mr Rajnath Singh carried the day
Jaswant Singh: I dont think he .carried the day sounds
Shekhar Gupta: In terms of partys view
Jaswant Singh: Carried the day would suggest he scored more runs
Shekhar Gupta: Jus presidential authority?
Jaswant Singh: No,the party also said
Shekhar Gupta: ab ho gaya
Jaswant Singh: Ab ho gaya,lets proceed further and well not let such things happen. This was the,there are,oh forget it
Shekhar Gupta: You know,4o years youve been in the party
Jaswant Singh: 30 years,42 years in public life
Shekhar Gupta: How has the relationship of the party and the RSS evolved?
Jaswant Singh: Ill tell you,somebody asked me this question,I contested my first election in 1967. that was the fourth genral election,this is the 15th general election that I contested. I must be among the veterans .
Shekhar Gupta: Absolutely. On way to the Guinness book
Jaswant Singh: No the Guinness book but the few who are 8 terms members,this is my eighth term. In a way we often comment decline in the conduct and quality of legislative,but there is a decline in the conduct of all organs of state. That is the reality. In a similar fashion,I say,ive said this to Shastriji and the leadership of the RSS that I see a decline in the RSS too. Suvidha bhoghi. We have all become used to convenience
Shekhar Gupta: Decadent
Jaswant Singh: Decadent is too strong. But suvidha boghis certainly. And that is a corruption of spirit
Shekhar Gupta: Soft
Jaswant Singh: Soft,preferring this or that and needlessly extreme in our way,not all,and that allegedly transferred itself to the BJP too. The BJP suffered from another deficiency too which was earlier it had purity of never having been in office. I think it was once in office
Shekhar Gupta: Did you have any exchanges with the RSS that you remember or cherish
Jaswant Singh: I would like to example many such conversations with Shastriji
Shekhar Gupta: But Mr Vajpayee came under extreme pressure from the RSS many times
Jaswant Singh: Yes,but he would not react and he would not resign from his position
Shekhar Gupta: He would do his thing
Jaswant Singh: He would do it quietly
Shekhar Gupta: Except one on Modi
Jaswant Singh: No also. I was not to take oath as Finance Minister. But thats alright
Shekhar Gupta: Thats two. But that one you are willing to overlook?
Jaswant Singh: No I do overlook
Shekhar Gupta: Because Mr Vajpayee could take you for granted
Jaswant Singh: Of course,of course. Thats alright. Its over
Shekhar Gupta: Because you know there is,I am a student of political history,a curious one,not as good as you,but a curious one and not a participant. There is one intriguing aspect of the dynamic of decision making,your relationship with Mr Advani,Mr Vajpayee,your world view that came out in Agra. What happened? Were we close to signing something,somebody opposed it?
Jaswant Singh: Of course,there was. The entire cabinet committee on security was there and the opposition really came on ground that the question of Gen Musharraf and the draft that we were preparing,terrorism was not included,had not been included upto that stage and I think objections came. The other difficulty that arose was the grand standing .
Shekhar Gupta: At that breakfast meeting
Jaswant Singh: On that morning
Shekhar Gupta: But the impression that given the option you would perhaps have preferred to sign some draft
Jaswant Singh: Of course,everyone wanted. Everybody wanted
Shekhar Gupta: But you didnt feel overruled by Mr Advani as
Jaswant Singh: No the entire Cabinet committee was . I couldnt have signed,I was not going to sign in any case. I was simply drafting a piece of paper
Shekhar Gupta: But Gen Musharrafs view that Mr Vajpayee was in agreement but Mr Advani blocked it,vetoed it
Jaswant Singh: Let me not comment on that because that is a diplomatic,who knows how the future goes
Shekhar Gupta: Right,but you were disappointed
Jaswant Singh: Oh yes,I would have wanted to,its a commitment that I have,you must learn to live together. Pakistan must abjure violence directly or indirectly. There is no place for terrorism
Shekhar Gupta: and second,sir,I know you have written something in your book and many people have said many things and weve talked about this many times and you promised me one day you would tell me exactly what happened. What happened on Kandahar? Especially the decision for you to go
Jaswant Singh: It was the decision for me to go,it was born of a fact that 166 are trapped there,theyve been there for seven days,our intelligence informs us on the 31st of December. From 36 terrorists,weve littled them down to three,there was no question of money or anything
Shekhar Gupta: So no money was given?
Jaswant Singh: None
Shekhar Gupta: But what was the need for you to go?
Jaswant Singh: Ill tell you. The need to me to go was there was officers of the MEA there,there were officers of the IB and R&AW. There was a whole plane load to be brought back. A rescue plane had been sent which contained doctors and others because when there is confinement for 7 days in a narrow capsule of an aircraft plus the officers said sir,if last minute hitch arises we will have no time to refer the matter to delhi and get clearances. What do we do? I volunteered to go in Cabinet and I went. I would have gone because one aircraft was sent. That aircraft,whatever reason went up in the air 20 minutes back it came back and saying we have technical fault
Shekhar Gupta: Its one of the RAW aircraft,an ARC aircraft,gulf stream,whatever. But not a civilian aircraft
Jaswant Singh: I dont want to .Pakistan then wanted a list of the XXXX which is never done because they feared we might be secretly planning a commando rescue. There was no aircraft because Kandahar was then a Taliban controlled airfleet. It was cluttered with tanks and the debris of warfare. There was no place to receive an additional aircraft. If I had to go .
Shekhar Gupta: Otherwise you wouldve gone if that aircraft had not developed a snag,you would have gone in a separate aircraft
Jaswant Singh: Absolutely
Shekhar Gupta: But the question of did the CCS know that you were going to
Jaswant Singh: Yes,yes they knew
Shekhar Gupta: Because there was some statement by Mr Advani that he didnt know that you were going. He knew there was an exchange taking place
Jaswant Singh: See,Ill tell you. I am sorry that Advanijis memory has not served him in this case. He had objections,to two of the cabinet colleagues had objections,
Shekhar Gupta: He and Mr Shourie
Jaswant Singh: In fact,Arun had the most severe objections
Shekhar Gupta: Arun Shourie. Because there are two Aruns
Jaswant Singh: I dont know about the other being a minister
Shekhar Gupta: Arun Jaitley
Jaswant Singh: Perhaps he was. Let him 250 be killed. His view was like that. You can have a view point. But then it was the Cabinet said no because here,not far away,people were roaming on the streets
Shekhar Gupta: You are pointing at 7 Race Course Road I know. Next-door neighbours
Jaswant Singh: They were rolling on the streets,crying. It was very demeaning,humiliating for India to be demonstrating this. No govt,no govt
Shekhar Gupta: Could have ignored this
Jaswant Singh: Could have ignored this one. Two,I dont think any govt can possibly take a decision knowingly that 166 be killed. Three,the instance of Israel is often cited,there are hundreds of cases where Israel has exchanged. Most recently,to get 2 bodies back,just 2 bodies,bodies
Shekhar Gupta: of soldiers
Jaswant Singh: 200 hamas people have been killed. Its not accommodating,and I argued within myself what is the right thing. Govts have a duty to save lives of citizens
Shekhar Gupta: So you are going on the same plane as then was out of compulsion
Jaswant Singh: It was a technical compulsion,there was no other way
Shekhar Gupta: But are you saying that maybe Mr Advani,as you said his memory may not be serving him right,that he was privy to the decision that you were going
Jaswant Singh: I was told by Atalji because he had earlier disagreed,he had gone somewhere,he was coming back,bata deejiye Advaniji kho ye nirnay lena hein ,I told him
Shekhar Gupta: You told Mr Advani
Jaswant Singh: And how could people like Zargar and others been released without the signature of
Shekhar Gupta: Thats not the issue. The issue is that Mr Advani says he knew that the exchange was to take place,but he wasnt aware that you were to go on the same plane
Jaswant Singh: I am astonished that his memory now I certainly know .i announced it in the cabinet
Shekhar Gupta: In the CCS?
Jaswant Singh: Yes
Shekhar Gupta: And he was there
Jaswant Singh: Yes
Shekhar Gupta: so could it be something that he is mind has told him to start forgetting as he came close to the elections
Jaswant Singh: Oh common,you dont expect me to answer that
Shekhar Gupta: As I said,pushing the envelope.
Jaswant Singh: I dont want to be judgmental
Shekhar Gupta: Because his memory is very good
Jaswant Singh: So your question itself is answered,you answered the question
Shekhar Gupta: So before I ask you where you go from here,let me ask you where does the BJP go from here
Jaswant Singh: Isnt that a question the BJP ought to answer?
Shekhar Gupta: You were a senior statesman,citizen of the bjp?
Jaswant Singh: I think the BJP has to rediscover itself. It has to be a party that is exclusive. If it wants to be an exclusive party,that is its decision
Shekhar Gupta: But then it becomes a cultural organisation,not a party?
Jaswant Singh: Yeah,it is. For them to
Shekhar Gupta: Like the RSS
Jaswant Singh: Why dont they become a .. at this rate,what politics are they playing? I dont accept that Hindutva becomes the foundational thought,the benefit to India and the citizen,yes. But we are not why semetise,why semetize thought like Sanathan thought
Shekhar Gupta: So BJP is a party,like a walking wounded,in military terminology?
Jaswant Singh: You know walking wounded are those that get wounded by enemy fire. In this case,the BJP has shot itself in the foot. Sometimes that happens in services
Shekhar Gupta: Self-inflicted when you are afraid of going into battle
Jaswant Singh: Thats right. Self inflicted
Shekhar Gupta: And then you get court martialled for it
Jaswant Singh: No,time punishes you
Shekhar Gupta: And do you think BJP is heading in that direction unless it fixes itself
Jaswant Singh: Every additional day that it doesnt is a day that is irretrievably lost
Shekhar Gupta: And what would you wish for the party?
Jaswant Singh: Oh I wish them very well
Shekhar Gupta: That they fix it or they muddle along
Jaswant Singh: I wish them very well. They must be of great relevance to India as a polity. Theyve been my colleagues for the last 30 years,I received great courtesy from them all these years. Ive served them to the best of my ability. If I candidly say what is wrong,I dont say it with enmity,I say it really as a companion
Shekhar Gupta: So you are telling them clean up your act now
Jaswant Singh: Yes
Shekhar Gupta: And everyday that you lose .
Jaswant Singh: is a day gone. Dont limit your vision,dont limit your vision,dont limit your feel
Shekhar Gupta: Because you know now we talk of other possible expulsions,the whole tamasha with Vasundhara Raje,which was blamed on you sometimes,the Rajputs ganging up on her
Jaswant Singh: I think thats really a false accusation and if I had so much to do with encouraging that she being the chief minister,
Shekhar Gupta: Right. Everyone on that plane ride to Goa
Jaswant Singh: And subsequently,this house,this very drawing room will bear on Sindhis all alone,so many evenings I spent with Vasundhara Raje,convincing her she should go,this is how it should be done and I would carry her worries and fears. I am saddened that
Shekhar Gupta: So how would you hope the party handles such situation in Rajasthan
Jaswant Singh: Its really for them to I dont want to comment on it
Shekhar Gupta: But will you be saddened if she is made to leave
Jaswant Singh: No,I told its really up to them. At one of the meetings,I said,look,let me go and do what I can for Rajasthan. I assure you Vasu Raje and somebody else present in the party,I will be able to make them sit together,we must because we are losing
Shekhar Gupta: So you could reconcile the differences
Jaswant Singh: I am sure I could have. Now,its too late
Shekhar Gupta: its too late for many things,but we know you wish your party well
Jaswant Singh: I do,I do
Shekhar Gupta: And all of us fans and friends here wish you well because you are one of our most open,accessible,candid and thinking public figures
Jaswant Singh: Kind my dear to say this
Shekhar Gupta: So keep meanwhile thinking and writing more bestsellers
Jaswant Singh: I hope this is a bestseller because the authors make very little money
Shekhar Gupta: Well I think authors make impact,they dont do it for money,they do it for impact
Jaswant Singh: I hope so,I told you what Hameed said
Shekhar Gupta: So thank you very much. I am always grateful to you for your time and patience
Jaswant Singh: Thank you very much Shekhar,thank you
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.