‘Antony diluted the report at the behest of the PMO’

Photo: Shailendra Pandey
Photo: Shailendra Pandey

You have moved a privilege motion against Defence Minister AK Antony, alleging that he misled Parliament on the recent killing of five jawans at the Line of Control. Do you believe he was wrongly briefed by the army?
Of course not. The army has maintained, and I have a copy of the report, that the Pakistan army was involved in the attacks on Indian soldiers. Clearly, AK Antony diluted the report at the behest of the PMO, and specifically prime minister Manmohan Singh. I would want to know from the Congress, who has been compromising national security and helping Pakistan by stating that the attack was the work of non-State actors? Look at his statement: “The ambush was carried out by approximately 20 heavily-armed terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniforms.” Antony has given Pakistan an alibi to save itself from a serious charge of terror attack. And here you are accusing us of not respecting Parliament or politicising the issue.

Why would the PMO dilute the report?
Because Manmohan Singh wants to go down in history as the PM who finally got the Indo-Pak peace process on track. He has an agenda to prove that he has been an able PM, as opposed to the truth that he has been the worst PM this country has ever seen. Remember when it came to Pakistan, he is the one who said “Trust and Verify” as opposed to “Verify and Trust”. They do not understand that Nawaz Sharif has betrayed us once again at the behest of the army, just like he did before Kargil. The Congress-led UPA government has clearly not learnt from the mistakes made by past governments, including the NDA, of trusting Pakistan.

But as Gurudas Dasgupta pointed out, the Opposition can’t expect India to be a military State. Are you then recommending that we go to war with Pakistan?
Between war and peace, there are 10 different alternatives for the country. Why do the two PMs have to meet in an atmosphere like this? Why can’t the ambassadors meet instead? Why can’t the Indian ambassador pass on a stern message to Pakistan that this will not be tolerated? Here is a PM who has already communicated to Pakistan that they are ready for talks without talking about 26/11.

You were also in the news last week when you called Narendra Modi the next PM of India. This, within months of LK Advani and Shatrughan Sinha expressing their displeasure about his candidature?
Everyone in our party has a right to an opinion. I just said that where popularity is concerned, right now, Narendra Modi is the most popular man in this country. He has had a great track record as a chief minister. Having said that, let me raise this point that I am not even a member of the parliamentary board, so I am not sure how much my opinion counts. The party has every right to negate my view or that of others and get anybody to fall in line if he tries to become an autocrat. My comments, I believe, were also misconstrued by the media. I am acutely aware of the fact that a lot of leaders today are media creations. Then there are other good leaders also who do not get the respect they deserve because they maintain a low profile.

But you also skipped the Goa executive to protest Modi’s elevation.
I would not like to comment on the reason I missed the Goa executive. I was appalled at the way the media made me a part of a group led by Advaniji, Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi. My stand is simple. I am neither in the Advani camp nor in the Modi camp. I have great regard for Advaniji as a senior. He will mentor the party to victory in 2014.

If he can mentor the party to victory, why can’t he be the PM candidate?
I am not against anybody as the PM candidate, but this is the role (mentor) that everyone sees for Advaniji. He is the patriarch of the party. There is no dearth of good leaders. Also, why just Advaniji, there is Jaswant Singhji, Murli Manohar Joshiji and Rajnath Singhji. But it depends on the party’s collective decision.

Other CMs like Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Raman Singh have been as successful as Modi in managing their states. Would it then be right to have a leader who is seen as a divisive figure even by your allies, to be given charge?
But tell me has anyone here said that Shivraj Singh Chauhan is not performing well? Or has a decision been taken that says that he, or for that matter, the other half a dozen leaders in the party who are equally good, are not in the reckoning? I was asked a question about popular perception, I said what I was seeing around me.

Popular perception of a man who uses phrases like “kutte ka bachcha”, whose government has proved to be complicit in fake encounters?
As far as the “kutte ka bachcha” statement goes, it seems to have been taken out of context. I don’t mean that he should not be an inclusive leader and should hurt the sentiments of a community. But in this case, there could have been a mistake. About the fake encounters cases, we should wait for the courts to pronounce their judgment. I think it’s high time we move beyond clichés and religion-based politics. However, the Congress has no right to speak on this issue. Do they remember Rajiv Gandhi’s infamous statement about the falling of a big tree?

With Nitish Kumar walking out of the alliance, and the possibility of an early poll, do you think it is time the BJP named its PM candidate?
Absolutely, there needs to be a strong signal that the BJP is all prepared for the elections. The parliamentary board should call for a meeting and declare its candidate for 2014, keeping in mind all views. This will also send out a positive signal to our allies. Yes, we have our differences. But the way out of that is to sit down and talk about what’s best for the party. As far as allies like Nitish Kumar are concerned, they are opportunists.



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