UPA has failed the country: Jaitley
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Shri Arun Jaitley, has behind him an illustrious career both as a leader of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and as a leading national figure of BJP. He was also President of the Delhi University Students' Union. He distinguished himself as the Law Minister in Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee's NDA government. He has also served the BJP as its general secretary and party spokesperson. His sharp and apt comments and intellectual prowess leaves his political opponents dumbfounded. Amba Charan Vashishth interviewed him in the first week of August at his residence in New Delhi. The recent Pak intrusion into Indian side of Line of Control killing five of our brave soldiers has given Shri Jaitley's comment that "the UPA government has failed the country" more substance and credence. Shri Jaitley freely answered wide-range of questions on various issues. Excerpts:
How does the political scenario in the country look to you at the moment?
There is an atmosphere of cynicism, anger, disgust in the country. People are extremely upset and angry. Their anguish is on account of deteriorating economic scenario in the country. The state of governance is extremely poor. Investment has almost stopped. Rupee has been devalued. Indian economy is becoming non-competitive. The whole era of showcasing the Indian economy to rest of the world is over. There is indecisiveness in the leadership. People are feeling vacuum of leadership. The UPA has failed the country. The outgoing leadership of UPA is non-inspirational. Those whom they are projecting as incoming leadership has not been able to establish his credentials. Corruption has further disillusioned people. Linking national security issues to vote bank politics rather than security has further caused concern in the country. The result of all these factors is that people are looking for change. People are looking for a hope. In this situation people look towards BJP. They look at us with a huge sense of hope. They have one grievance with the BJP. The people of this country are willing to bring about a change. They want BJP to be ready to lead the change. And I only hope we are able to qualify for that aspiration of the people.
How far has the UPA decision to carve out Telangana changed the political and electoral scene in Andhra Pradesh?
See, the two political parties genuinely committed to Telangana are TRS and BJP. The UPA never wanted to create Telangana. In fact the Justice Shrikrishna report was a half-hearted effort merely intended to delay the process of Telangana. Today their allies are marginalized in both coastal Andhra ,Rayalaseema and also in Telangana. The UPA has created Telangana not out of ideological conviction but merely because of political convenience. I only hope that they are able to walk the talk. But at the end of the day I don`t see UPA will be benefitted out of creation of Telangana because people in Telangana know that UPA commitment to Telangana was not real. They will face a wrath in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema without much of gain in Telangana. It is a lose-lose situation for the UPA.
Congress seems determined to push through its political and electoral agenda during the monsoon session of Parliament this month. What is your assessment?
Monsoon session of parliament is for only sixteen days. Out of these sixteen days four or five days are Fridays when private member's business is transacted. How much business they will be able to transact in all 12 days? I think Congress has consciously shortened the session because it is uncomfortable during parliament session. Therefore, there is external and internal barbados.
What do you think about the Food Security Ordinance recently promulgated?
I personally am in support of the idea of right to food. The right to livelihood can`t be in the abstract. It must inherently feed every stomach. I am one of those who genuinely feel committed to the fact of state subsidising food at least to the weaker sections. Now this extent of reach of the food, the quantum and quantity of the food to be given must be nutritious. It must reach the largest number of the people and the distribution network government is able to create must be effective. The earlier PDS has shown a lot of leakages and food going back into the system through the black market. And I only hope that does not happen because of the infrastructure for distribution has not been effectively created.
Do you think that Ordinance is going to have any impact in the coming State assembly and 2014 Lok Sabha elections?
I think it is for political purposes. But how much political advantage they will get, they will try and do that best. But I have my serious doubts. Ultimately it is the state governments which already have effective food programmes. Some BJP ruled States already have effective PDS programme which is much better than Food Security Ordinance.
Elections to State assemblies in four important States of Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are going to be held in the last quarter of this year. What are your expectations for BJP?
The main political advantage is that the political environment in this country is in our favour. In battle for leadership, we are way ahead of them. The electoral agenda of issues is loaded against them. I, therefore, think we have a good chance for winning all the four States. If we miss out any one State, it will not be their politics, probably will be our internal problems.
It is BJP's prerogative to announce its prime ministerial candidate at what time. But media and certain opposition groups have raised a controversy on some probable names. But the same media is silent on demanding Congress to announce its prime ministerial candidate. How do you see the situation?
See I tell you, we have so far appointed Shri Narinder Modi as Chairman of Election Campaign Committee. Obviously, Narendra Bhai’s name creates a lot of buzz and news as far as media is concerned and, therefore, there is a lot of excitement. There are groups and opinion against him. There is a very large and overwhelming opinion in his favour. In fact, he has, to a great extent, captured the imagination and support of the BJP cadres and of the political constituency that supports the BJP. It is, however, upto the national party through its Parliamentary Board to announce the name and finallise it at the appropriate time. But I am convinced that in the battle for leadership we are way ahead. The Congress has nobody to match the personality of some of our leaders. That is why they are trying to duck the leadership fight. Hence, you have statements coming from Congress leaders saying they may not even declare their leader.
UPA government and PMO recently refused to divulge information under RTI about Robert Vadra on the excuse of confidentiality. Earlier, it refused information about Mrs. Sonia Gandhi's treatment abroad at public expense. Now PMO has refused to share with people the information about the utilization of funds collected from people in the Prime Minister's Relief Fund. On the one hand, Congress claims credit for having given people the RTI and on the other, it is denying information to people. What does it mean?
You see, they want to claim the credit for bringing the Right to Information Act but they also want to effectively deprive by using the exception. On matter of corruption and on matters of use and misuse of public funds, there cannot be ground of confidentiality.
How satisfied are you with the pace of investigation into the 2G spectrum, Coalgate, Railgate and other scams?
I am not satisfied as far as 2G case is concerned. The matter is pending in the court but the JPC which was to come out with its findings is being prevented by UPA members from coming to an effective findings. In Coalgate, UPA government was caught red-handed when its minister was trying to interfere with the preparation of CBI status report which was to be submitted to the Supreme Court. They tried to doctor that report. The Railgate comes to me as the bolt from the blue where minister and his family members are involved in the matter of auctioning important positions in the Railways and, at the same time, you find those who took the decision instead of being an accused have been made prime witnesses.
In the Isharat Jahan case, Congress government has put CBI and IB at daggers against each other. How do you see the situation?
Well, the Ishrat Jahan case was an IB operation. Now the facts are in public domain. It is clear now. You can’t uncover the functioning of the security agencies of India. Security agencies always function under a cover. Now when you uncover them and ask police investigation to investigate their functioning, you are hurting national security. That is what the UPA government is doing.
Recently, a group of MPs petitioned the US President not to grant visa to Shri Narendra Modi. How do you see the development?
It is highly improper that MPs decided to petition the US President. My personal advice to Shri Narinder Modi would be that he should not apply for US visa. Since 2005 he has actually not applied for it. The refusal of US to give him a visa is not the failure of the BJP or of Narinder Modi; it is failure of India’s foreign policy where this UPA government is mute spectator to the fact that the top elected leader in Indian democracy can be denied a visa and Government of India becomes a mute spectator.
How strong and united is BJP to face the challenge of ensuing State assembly and Lok Sabha elections next year?
We are united and determined. We lost two elections. We can’t afford to lose a third and I am sure there is great enthusiasm in our cadres also. ***