‘The chetna we tried to arouse met with great response’

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BJP General Secretary Ravi Shankar Prasad tells Kunal Majumder that the Lokayukta in NDA states is very effective

Ravi Shankar Prasad
Ravi Shankar Prasad, Photo: Shailendra Pandey

How was LK Advani’s 38-day Jan Chetna Yatra received?
The yatra received great response everywhere. It was apparent that corruption, price rise and black money in foreign banks are the issues that people are concerned about. Leave aside states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, where we are strong, even in places like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Odisha, the yatra attracted a sizeable crowd.

But media reports from the ground suggest that not many people turned up in places like Punjab and Jammu.
We went to 23 states and four Union territories. Even Punjab was a success. The media has tried to see the negative aspect of the yatra from day one. In all places, I saw the same concern that was raised by the Bofors issue during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure. This government has a lot to hide.

What are the key issues that came up during the yatra?
The main issue was accountability. As rightly highlighted by Advaniji, it is important to dispel the impression that the whole country is corrupt. The UPA’s misdeeds, misgovernance and corruption are only too clear. The people of the country are honest. In that context, the chetna we tried to arouse met with great response.

On corruption, in spite of you extending support to Anna Hazare, his group has always distanced itself from you.
Anna Hazare has done a great job of exposing corruption. In a democracy, everybody has the right to do so. We had good discussions with his group on many issues. The BJP wants a very effective Lokpal under whose ambit the PM must be covered. If any change has to come in the country, it has to come through the political process. As the principle opposition party in the country, the BJP is committed to weeding out corruption.

On the last day of his yatra, Advani announced that all NDA MPs will declare that they don’t have illegal assets or bank accounts abroad. Is this just another gimmick?
Why do you call it a gimmick? We will do it once we announce it publicly. It will pressurise the government. Why don’t they reveal the names of those whose names have come from France? What is it that it wants to hide?

Why not go a step further and let NDA state governments also announce that they are corruption free?
This is a beginning. Most BJP and NDA governments are going to have an effective Lokpal.

In light of the corruption charges faced by former CM BS Yeddyurappa in Karanataka, doesn’t some of the anticorruption rhetoric of the BJP sound hypocritical?
In a democracy, everyone is free to draw his own conclusions. Some people are typically prejudiced against the BJP. When the Lokayukta report came out in Karnataka, we asked the CM to go. Whereas even when the Lokayukta came up with a report against Raj Kumar Chauhan, a Delhi Congress minister, the party refused to take any action.

NDA governments have been proactive when it comes to legislating Lokayukta laws. But lately we have seen some variations. Nitish Kumar even refused to follow BJP’s example in Uttarakhand.
Some variation will be there. The Lokayukta in Bihar is very effective; even the CM comes under its jurisdiction. The state has also gone ahead with a Special Courts Act to confiscate properties of corrupt officials. In Madhya Pradesh, the state law has been passed but is being delayed by the Centre. There may be different models, what is important is the substance.

Kunal Majumder is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.
kunal@tehelka.com

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