In an exclusive interview to Shubhajit Roy on the way back from Colombo after a two-day visit,External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid speaks his mind on domestic politics: what made Rahul Gandhi speak his mind on the ordinance on convicted MPs,why the RTI should not apply on political parties,on Telangana,and why is the Home Ministers letter on detention of minority youth important.
Was it a right move by Rahul Gandhi to speak out on the ordinance issue,especially after it had been discussed for about two months and decided by the Cabinet?
My opinion is that you can split hair as long as you desire to say something,but on any issue,there is no reason why we should have a closed mind after taking a prima facie view. Clearly in a democracy,lot depends on feedback that you get,opinions,change in perceptions and reassessment from time to time. No party nor individual should become a slave of a decision that has been taken or become confined to a limited view. I dont know what kind of intellectual exercise he (Rahul) went through. But I assume that he must have received feedback from a lot of people,he may have talked to a lot of people and then arrived at a conclusion,which,I think has received approval from a very vast number of people. The pursuance power of the idea that he gave,was apparent to everybody. Now,you can say why it was not apparent earlier. It may well have been apparent to many people. The reason why we did the ordinance in the first place was largely to do with pragmatic politics,and politics is a matter of practicality and pragmatism. At times,a larger reason of higher public morality can override practical,pragmatic politics. And this kind of interplay between pragmatism and principle takes place in politics all the time.
Were you surprised when Rahul came and spoke?
I wasnt very surprised because the little that I know of working with him,he has very strong philosophical views about life and politics,he doesnt always push them,he always likes to talk about them. But I believe from time to time,he has a sense that there is something that must be pushed and then,lets not forget that he is now the vice-president of our party,and in the vice-presidents role which is obviously a growing role,he feels the need to lead the party in a direction that he believes is important for the country. He wants to clean up,he wants to restructure,he wants to have greater rationality in the way we take decisions. You cant nitpick about I would have done it this way,I would have done it that way… politics is not a perfect science,it is a social science. And in social science,you have to go by the evolving situation as you see it and experience it.
You had once said Rahul does a cameo. You think you have been proved right?
I dont think I have been proved right. He has become a vice-president of the party,he is (active) 24×7,he is involved in everything,he is calling the shots,he is giving his time,he is campaigning tirelessly,I think what we had desired and hoped,has happened. But he is vice-president and not president. So one day,he will graduate to president or to a position in the government,he may lead us in the government. I think it was a desire that I had expressed,a desire lot of people had.
After the withdrawal of ordinance,is there a rethink about granting exemption to the political parties from RTI?
Not to my knowledge. The problem is that people think that RTI is the only procedure and process by which you can get facts. Facts can be obtained in many ways by the Election Commission,from people who fight elections,from political parties by way of affidavits etc. Something to do with elections and political parties is best handled by the EC. Why should it be handled by the Information Commission? Every area of human endeavour has its own methodology,has its own platforms,its own procedures by which information can be sought. There is no reason why all information should be sought only from one single office.
On the Telangana issue,the government is facing resignations from your Cabinet colleagues. So,is Telangana a done deal?
As far as I am concerned,it is a decision of the Cabinet. I do understand that my colleagues,who are feeling tremendous agony and discomfort at handling public response and reaction,have their own story to tell. And the Prime Minister has told them that he needs time,he will listen to them,he will see what he can do.
What is your view on Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shindes letter on detention of minority youth?
Shinde has done what he believes is his duty. He is not the only one who has come to this conclusion. There are many well-informed people,there are commissions and there are investigative agencies that have come to this conclusion repeatedly. Courts have,after years of trial,come to the conclusion and lot of people have been rounded up and kept in prison and put on trial,without there being enough cause and enough evidence. I think the totality of the information would have caused concern to Shinde and therefore he has said what he has said.