In this Idea Exchange moderated by Opinion Editor Vandita Mishra,JD(U) president Sharad Yadav speaks about FDI in retail and why a new Third Front wont work
Vandita Mishra: There is a lot of disunity in the Opposition and this seems to be working to the governments advantage. For example,Nitish Kumar recently said he would support the party that gives special status to Bihar. L K Advani had said that the next PM may be a non-BJP,non-Congress man. You had rejected the suggestion. You had also rejected his call for a special session of Parliament to discuss FDI in retail.
Sharad Yadav: The NDA has been there for 16 years and there are four parties in it. All the parties have different agendas and philosophies. There are a number of issues that do not find a place in the NDAs national agenda. We came together after putting several of our party issues on the backburner. Nitishji never said anything about anybody being or not being the prime minister. It was the media that presented his statement in a way that it targeted a particular person. In the NDA,it is the BJP and the JD(U) that have a presence everywhere. We are alliance partners in Jharkhand,Bihar,Rajasthan. We used to be allies in Karnataka.
Ever since Independence,the whole Congress set-up has remained pegged around a single entitythe Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. When Advaniji asked for a special session of Parliament to discuss FDI in retail,I spoke to him. I believe that this governments policies have affected the livelihood of 25 crore people. If you call a special session,this government may fall. We do not want the government to fall. Our aim is to awaken the public so that no other government repeats what this government has done. We want to create awareness among the masses. If the masses are awakened,even Hitler has to make way and even people like Indiraji,Morarji bhai and Chaudhary Charan Singh lose elections. I requested Advaniji not to go ahead with the session as it would have no benefit.
Maneesh Chhibber: There is a strong disagreement among Opposition parties over FDI. The Akali Dal had supported FDI when the issue came up earlier. So,why are you opposing FDI?
Sharad Yadav: Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Manmohan Singh keep making false promises. Europe and America want our market to open up. They are looting iron ore. Thats what is happening with POSCO,with the Reddys in Karnataka and in MP. Iron ore is being sold at the cost of sand,almost for free. When the market crashes,why doesnt it affect the traditional traders,such as the woman who sells fruits or vegetables or the samosa-chaat vendor? Thats because these things are not sold in malls.
Maneesh Chhibber: So why does Chandni Chowk need to be afraid of the malls?
Sharad Yadav: Why not? Conduct a survey and see how the opening of malls in an old market area has had a negative impact on the small shop owners there. When these foreign retailers come,they will come here to earn,not to serve you. The contribution of India to the worlds GDP in the 10th century was 32.9 per cent. In 1100 AD,it was 28 per cent and Indias economy was at the top in world. In 1500 AD,it was 24.5 per centsecond to China at 25 per cent. In 1700 AD,India again gained the top position at 24.4 per cent. Today,after 65 years of Independence,the UPA has brought the countrys GDP down to 5.9 per cent.
Vandita Mishra: So why dont you want to bring down such a government?
Sharad Yadav: Because we had tried once before,after the nuclear deal,when the Left parties withdrew from the UPA. We thought we would ensure that the government falls. We spoke to the Communist party and wanted to back them. Mulayam Singh was standing with us but then he went to the other side because Dr Kalam said the deal would benefit the country! We were still ready to bring down the government but they started creating differences amongst us with the help of media,etc.
Maneesh Chhibber: There is talk again of a third front. Will you be part of such an idea?
Sharad Yadav: A third front can be formed but it wont be successful because there is no axis. The NDA and UPA work because they have the BJP and the Congress as their respective axis. The Left parties stay together because the CPM is a big party and acts as an axis. But talk of a Third Front is not practical.
Ravish Tiwari: Unlike you,Mulayam Singh Yadav maintains a link with the Congress. But you never say anything against him. Why?
Sharad Yadav: Mulayam Singh has been with me for the past 40 years. There is an anti-Congress streak in his inner self. He was with me during the Bharat Bandh on September 20.
Ravish Tiwari: But when you needed his help in 2008,during the confidence motion on the civil nuclear deal,he did not support you.
It happens. He supported me during the Bharat Bandh. When Mahatma Gandhi went from Sabarmati to Dandi,there were many people with him. However,half of them left him on the way. And when Gandhiji was breaking the salt law,there were lakhs of people with him that day. So,while someone walked two miles,another walked two kilometres,and yet another walked four kilometres. But at least they walked.
Vandita Mishra: But Mulayam Singh Yadav was on the dais during the third anniversary celebrations of UPA-II,holding up its report card. So what anti-Congressism are you talking about?
Sharad Yadav: Karunanidhi as well as Mulayam Singh were with us during Bharat Bandh. Had UP not supported us,the bandh would not have been successful. It is not a wrestling match in a ring. In politics,situations arise where a person needs to shift stands. Take it from me that
Mulayam Singhji will not go with them.
Shyamlal Yadav: How long do you think Mulayam Singh will stay with the UPA?
Sharad Yadav: Nobody will remain with the UPA. These English newspapers run out of ink writing about this matter sitting in the cities. How well do they know this country? This battle is going to be very tough. They did not let Soniaji become the (PM). She was responsible for the victory of 206 MPs. Had she become the PM,she would have run the government keeping her party in mind. PM Manmohan Singh has contested elections only once. I have never spoken against him in the past eight years. But I am doing so today because he has kept 25 crore people of this country hungry. Had Soniaji been here,this would not have happened. She is running a party and a person who runs a party does so keeping in mind the views of the public.
Maneesh Chhibber: Do you think most Congress members are also against FDI?
Sharad Yadav: Most of them are against it.
Vandita Mishra: Is Sonia Gandhi against it?
Sharad Yadav: Ask Soniaji. I have already said that when a person is running a party,he or she has to keep people in mind.
Vandita Mishra: Are there differences between Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi?
Sharad Yadav: No,if there had been,they would have come out. Sonia Gandhi allowed Manmohan Singh to be the PM and she became his shadow. You may abuse or throw stones at the shadow but it wont harm the shadow.
Maneesh Chhibber: If the BJP says in 2014 that Narendra Modi is their prime ministerial candidate,will you agree?
Sharad Yadav: This is kite-flying. This is idle talk. If you were to believe such talk,many people would have been prime minister: Ramakrishan Hedge,H N Bahuguna,Lalit Mishra,the late D P Mishra,etc. Indira Gandhi simply cut through all of them. Biju Patnaik was a PM candidate,so were Chandrashekhar,Babu Jagjivan Ram and Chaudhary Charan Singh. Now,with the growth in the media,the list of potential PMs has grown longer. Neither the BJP not the NDA has taken a decision on the PM candidate. Earlier,we had decided on Advaniji and before that Atalji. This time the situation is such that no name has been decided as yet.
Vandita Mishra: Do you think parties such as yours were responsible for the weakening of the Third Front? You chose to join the BJP camp. If these parties had remained with the Third Front,there would have been a base or axis for such a front?
We regret that our party (Janata Dal) split. Lalu Yadav separated and fought against us. Nitishji created a new party. Had we not joined the BJP,we could not have swept the polls. We know the situation in Bihar. BJP is both an asset and a liability.
Maneesh Chhibber: How is the BJP a liability?
Sharad Yadav: They have done some things that have alienated the people and we have a 20 per cent minority population.
Ravish Tiwari: How is it an asset?
Sharad Yadav: They are in power in several statesMadhya Pradesh,Himachal Pradesh,Gujarat,Chhattisgarh,Goa. They have a huge network. If we didnt work with them,then how would the Bharat Bandh have worked? You need to view the bigger picture,expand your mind,understand that things would not have worked without taking them on board. We are pragmatic people. No single party is winning (the elections) right now. Fighting elections is a tough job in this country. You have to take into account different castes and communities and reach out to practically everyone. It is easy to sit here talking about fresh elections.
Coomi Kapoor: Why did you not go with your alliance partner in the presidential election?
Sharad Yadav: Had Dr Kalam stood for elections,the overwhelming majority of people in my party,in the BJP,Shiv Sena and Akali Dal would have supported him. But I knew that he would not stand unless the road to Rashtrapati Bhavan was clear. Then Jayalalithaa and Naveen Patnaik said that they want to support Sangma sahib. I realised that the country will be in trouble after the 2014 elections and therefore,we said that if Pranab babu is the candidate,we will support him. Pranab babu knows the political situation in every part of the country. He would understand regional situations. I didnt want a bureaucrat who would have to take advice from 10 different people. We dont know how things will turn out in 2014. We have to protect our democracy. Im sure that with Pranab babu sitting there,democracy will be safe. That is why we supported Pranab babu. I spoke to the Shiv Sena first. When we assured Bal Thackeray that we were firm about our decision,he agreed and announced his support for Pranab babu. Now we are at peace that if anything happens in 2014,Pranab babu knows the country,knows the politicians and knows the politics.
Shekhar Gupta: That is what worries the Congress. Pranab babu is neither with the Congress nor with us. He will be fair.
Shekhar Gupta: Do you want Nitish Kumar to be Prime Minister if the NDA wins in 2014?
Sharad Yadav: Nitishji has never said anything. He said this decision will be taken in the NDA. The BJP will take a decision and then the NDA will decide.
Yogesh Rajput: Govindacharya has said that you will be the best candidate to be the next prime minister.
Sharad Yadav: Proposing anyones name right now is spoiling that mans case.
Shishir Tripathi: The Nehru-Gandhi family has been blamed for supporting nepotism,but it is happening everywhere,whether it is UP or Uttarakhand.
Sharad Yadav: I have said that two-thirds of the country is run by families. That is not a good thing.
Vandita Mishra: But even Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav,once your fellow travellers,have indulged in nepotism.
Sharad Yadav: Why comment on the personal decisions of any particular person? Many people left us because of this issue. Laluji made the right decision by leaving us because we would have not let his wife,Rabriji,become CM. We would not have agreed with that.
Ifrah Mufti: Has the JD(U) decided to contest the Gujarat elections without the BJP?
Sharad Yadav: No one in our party can decide by themselves. We always fight alone. We have never ever allied with the BJP in Gujarat.
Vandita Mishra: What happens next? Will you allow the next session of Parliament to proceed?
Sharad Yadav: Yes,why not?
Shekhar Gupta: The BJP blocked the entire monsoon session of Parliament. Did you agree with it?
Sharad Yadav: I have said that the Opposition must stay together and speak in one voice. Had a vote occurred,we could have gone our own separate ways. When the Lok Sabha sits,when people speak,they are not just talking to the government. The media is also present,the people are watching. There are arguments,there is a debate. I did say several times that we should allow Parliament to function. But the majority opinion in the NDA was such that I went along with that decision. When there is democracy,whoever has the numbers will prevail. That is what happened. There are four parties in the NDA. The NDA took a majority decision. When they made a decision,we stuck by them.
Transcribed by Sumegha Gulati & Aneesha Mathur