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‘I told Advaniji not to associate himself with the sting operation. He kept quiet and I couldn’t press beyond a point’

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.

Written by The Indian Express |
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 24×7’s 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: It’s 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 don’t 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 can’t 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,doesn’t want to read,it doesn’t 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,don’t 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 don’t 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,I’ve been in politics for 42 years now

Shekhar Gupta: You have been in the Army and then politics

Jaswant Singh: That’s it. That’s all I’ve 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 couldn’t 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,it’s Rahim’s 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 didn’t 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 couldn’t

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 don’t 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 don’t 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: That’s right

Jaswant Singh: So it wasn’t 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 it’s 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: That’s 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: Let’s engage on this

Jaswant Singh: I had,yes certainly,you mean,I don’t think so,at least I don’t think so that I have written a flippant book. I have received accolades from those that have read this book from Pakistan. It’s 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,it’s 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 don’t 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 it’s 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: Uma’s name then came up and we all agreed. All that was Raje’s game,I suggest it was Raje’s 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: That’s right. And then of course he said that

Shekhar Gupta: It’s 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: That’s 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 don’t 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: It’s a tiny 737

Jaswant Singh: It’s 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 there’ll 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 Modi’s 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 Atalji’s 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 don’t 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 don’t keep accounts. Then people started saying it’s 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 don’t 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. It’s become relevant today because he’s 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: They’ve 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…it’s over,let’s forget it.

Shekhar Gupta: But it was there. This is also history,it’s a bit contemporary,but it’s history

Jaswant Singh: Of course

Shekhar Gupta: That’s 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 Minister’s parliamentary office

Shekhar Gupta: When Parliament was in session

Jaswant Singh: It was in session. I don’t remember the exact context but he wrote it. Pramod called me from the House. Jaldi aayiye Jaswantji. I didn’t know what had happened but if am summoned to the Prime Minister’s office,I would naturally leave. So I went in,I was told sambhaaliye,sambhaaliye istifat de rahe hein. You don’t mind my speaking in Hindi?

Shekhar Gupta: Not at all

Jaswant Singh: So I went in,he’d 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 minister’s office and tell the PM’s 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 wouldn’t 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: He’ll be unhappy about what’s happened now

Jaswant Singh: I don’t know. Why involve him? He’s 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 don’t come to the meeting and I said if you like I’ll go back. That’s about 10.30 in the morning and,no,I’ll call you,I’ll call you and about 1 o’clock 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 don’t 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 don’t 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 doctor’s appointment so I couldn’t 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 I’ve sent you the copies,you got them and he said yes I got them. It’s 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 don’t,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 don’t 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: Don’t 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: That’s right

Shekhar Gupta: Did you see this in Mr Advani’s personality

Jaswant Singh: Advani’s 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 don’t know. It’s not a question,it’s 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: Don’t 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 don’t you tell us one odd?

Jaswant Singh: Like this whole instance of bringing money into Parliament….and there was some strange fellow,I don’t 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 let’s 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 don’t associate yourself with it,I went to the extent of going to his house and saying…I never drink before sun-down….

Shekhar Gupta: I’ve been very fishy of your hospitality

Jaswant Singh: I am an advocate,if I drink,I don’t pretend that I don’t drink. That’s 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: That’s 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 don’t remember who the man was?

Jaswant Singh: Arey baba,it’s a very funny name he said. You’ll find his name if you go back on those records. Something Hindustani,Raja Hindustani or some such thing. This is the only time I’ve 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 don’t 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 don’t 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 don’t know if it brought us any…

Shekhar Gupta: It muddied the government’s 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. That’s 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: That’s right

Shekhar Gupta: so that’s 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,that’s what it was . Why…. I am sure the media was also involved in this

Shekhar Gupta: Yes,but don’t judge us by the same standards as a public life

Jaswant Singh: No,I don’t. 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 don’t know,this is a question you must ask him

Shekhar Gupta: Since we talked about this? Chintha badi,phir galtiya badi?

Jaswant Singh: It’s 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 don’t know who the author of this sting was. I frankly don’t. because I wasn’t 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,don’t ask me about BJP. It’s 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 doesn’t 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 didn’t say yes or no,or did he?

Jaswant Singh: He didn’t.

Shekhar Gupta: Or did he say Jaswantji aap purane samaaneke hein

Jaswant Singh: He didn’t

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: It’s 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 wasn’t because there might be rationale upto a point and we were not the only ones,we didn’t 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. That’s 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 DON’T 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 everybody’s 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 don’t correct the first. There’s the details of it which troubled,I don’t want to go into the details

Shekhar Gupta: But the fundamentals of it you don’t 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

It’s good to keep talking

Shekhar Gupta: And to break the barriers

Jaswant Singh: Of course,don’t 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 don’t 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. It’s 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,I’ve lived in a village,my family has lived there Shekhar since 1092,it’s a long time to live,and we faced all the,we are directly on the route of all the invasions. I don’t 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 don’t think he….carried the day sounds…

Shekhar Gupta: In terms of party’s 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,let’s proceed further and we’ll not let such things happen. This was the,there are,oh forget it…

Shekhar Gupta: You know,4o years you’ve 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: I’ll 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 that’s alright

Shekhar Gupta: That’s 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. That’s alright. It’s 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 didn’t feel overruled by Mr Advani as

Jaswant Singh: No the entire Cabinet committee was . I couldn’t have signed,I was not going to sign in any case. I was simply drafting a piece of paper

Shekhar Gupta: But Gen Musharraf’s 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,it’s 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 we’ve 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,they’ve been there for seven days,our intelligence informs us on the 31st of December. From 36 terrorists,we’ve 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: I’ll 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: It’s one of the RAW aircraft,an ARC aircraft,gulf stream,whatever. But not a civilian aircraft

Jaswant Singh: I don’t 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 would’ve 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 didn’t know that you were going. He knew there was an exchange taking place

Jaswant Singh: See,I’ll tell you. I am sorry that Advaniji’s 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 don’t 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 don’t 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. It’s 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: That’s not the issue. The issue is that Mr Advani says he knew that the exchange was to take place,but he wasn’t 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 don’t expect me to answer that

Shekhar Gupta: As I said,pushing the envelope.

Jaswant Singh: I don’t 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 don’t they become a….. at this rate,what politics are they playing? I don’t 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: That’s 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 doesn’t 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. They’ve been my colleagues for the last 30 years,I received great courtesy from them all these years. I’ve served them to the best of my ability. If I candidly say what is wrong,I don’t 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. Don’t limit your vision,don’t limit your vision,don’t 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 that’s 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: It’s really for them to … I don’t want to comment on it

Shekhar Gupta: But will you be saddened if she is made to leave

Jaswant Singh: No,I told it’s 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,it’s too late

Shekhar Gupta: it’s 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 don’t 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

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