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Tall talk, no action!
state of helplessness seems to have gripped the ruling elite in New Delhi. Is this a matter of convenience or a deliberate attempt at escapism from the harsh realities at the grassroots?

Death for rapists
O contain the political fallout of the incidence of rape of four nuns in Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh demanded that the law should allow the rapists to be put to death.

Inspiration for Sarvodaya
E have developed a creative tradition of naming our institutions, big or small, after great persons. Occasionally, we have taken this tendency to the ridiculous extent of idolatry.


Patchy Panchkula
by D.R. Sharma

ESTLING at the feet of the Shivalik hills, the town of Panchkula charms the visitor with its ecological peace and wide roads and its heritage of once being the confluence of five mythical streams. It is perhaps this distinction that motivates some of the leaders in Haryana to further enhance its glory.

Edit page articles
by Kuldip Nayar

HECKING the antecedents of officers is nothing new. The recent controversy involving IAF Chief S.K. Sareen was unfortunate. The Intelligence Bureau is all the time keeping surveillance on top military and civilian officers.

Internet & Chinese students
From Fons Tuinstra in Shanghai
IN China the government likes to be the top-down driving force behind the Internet. Public will is married with the dollars of foreign hi-tech companies dying to get a foothold in China’s booming computer market. But in education, perceived by many as most in need of getting online, funding can be hard to come by.

75 Years Ago

Takia-Mandir Dispute
EARING in the above case was resumed today in the court of Sirdar Sahib Bhai Hardyal Singh, Magistrate, First Class. The accused were defended by L. Duni Chand Nagpal, Vakil.

Complete confusion in BJP mind
By K. Vaidiyanathan

MR MANI Shankar Aiyar (57) needs no introduction to the Indian public. He is one of those few Indian Foreign Service officials who resigned their jobs to enter politics. Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar is known for his caustic comments and satirical expressions. The writer met him recently to know his reaction about the reverses of the Congress (I) in Andhra and Karnataka elections. The following are excerpts from the interview:

The Tribune Library

Tall talk, no action!

A state of helplessness seems to have gripped the ruling elite in New Delhi. Is this a matter of convenience or a deliberate attempt at escapism from the harsh realities at the grassroots? Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in the course of his election address at Udaipur blames blackmarketeers and hoarders for the onion crisis. He asks them to behave but does not spell out the steps the government proposes to take to bring the hoarders to book. Does the Prime Minister want the crisis to get further aggravated before initiating action against them? Why should his government be soft on those who exploit the miseries of common citizens? Why cannot the long arm of the law nab them? Is it because of the lack of political will? Or, is this part of a calculated design not to touch the black sheep in the trading community? If there is a will, there will be no dearth of information as to who is hoarding what and in what quantity. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership does not have to seek the prior approval of its allies for routine administrative measures in this vital area of public concern. In the past, there used to be visible administrative action in such situations, at least for public consumption. But the BJP-led coalition seems to be taking everything casually. Small wonder that the people have started openly saying that the BJP being a party of traders is deliberately allowing them to cash in on the unprecedented rise in the prices of essential commodities. Can there be a sadder commentary on the state of the nation than the current drift? Indeed, the indifference on the part of the authorities to the plight of ordinary citizens is shameful. The BJP leadership ought to realise that politics is not a matter of rhetoric. Nor is it a shadow-play. It is a serious business of governance.

Another example of the growing helplessness in the corridors of power is provided by none other than Union Home Minister L.K. Advani. He says: "A network of criminal elements posing as businessmen or having links with the business community is growing and they even have ominous international connections with anti-national elements." He probably said this in a veiled reference to the arrest of Romesh Sharma, an alleged aid of the Dubai-based don, Dawood Ibrahim. This arrest is surely a breakthrough. What has been revealed so far about Romesh Sharma's politico-criminal networking is shocking, to say the least. However, against the arrest of one or two such offenders, there are innumerable others who continue to have a field day. The N.N. Vohra Committee report had talked extensively about the sinister nexus between criminals and certain segments of politicians, bureaucrats and the police. No one seems to have taken up this matter seriously for follow-up action. It is no secret that a good number of ministers even in the BJP-led coalition government in Uttar Pradesh have been harbouring members of known criminal gangs by providing them shelter, cars and other possible assistance. The Special Task Force of the UP Police which was created by the Chief Minister has already submitted a report to Mr Kalyan Singh with the evidence that establishes links of such gangs with as many as eight ministers. Still, there are no signs of any decisive action. One fails to understand why the party in power should become the protector of criminal elements in the state. Mr Advani is known for his tough postures. Why can't he ask Mr Kalyan Singh to act against the ministers who have criminal antecedents? All that the people want is tough action. He has projected himself as "an iron man". But when it comes to action, he seems to be a prisoner of his own doings. Mere words cannot take the country anywhere, Mr Advani.


Death for rapists

TO contain the political fallout of the incidence of rape of four nuns in Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh demanded that the law should allow the rapists to be put to death. His reaction to the heinous crime had something to do with the fact that the Assembly elections are due in the State. Now Union Home Minister L.K. Advani has picked up the refrain on behalf of the Bharatiya Janata Party which has to defend its turf in Rajasthan and Delhi and knock the Congress out of power in Madhya Pradesh. He announced on Tuesday that the law would be amended soon to provide for capital punishment for the crime of rape. The Union Cabinet has cleared the proposal and amendments in the rape laws are likely to be introduced during the winter session of Parliament. Both Mr Advani and Mr Digvijay Singh have overlooked a simple fact, while making the populist suggestion, that cases of murder have shown an alarming increase across the country in spite of the law providing for the death sentence for the crime. It is, therefore, obvious that increasing the quantum of punishment for the perpetrators of the crime of rape may give the issue the trappings of “political correctness” but is not likely to make potential victims more secure. Rajasthan has earned the dubious distinction of reporting a disturbingly high number of cases of rape. The situation in Delhi is equally alarming. The problem is not that the laws for dealing with sexual offences and crimes against women are inadequate. They are ineffective, just as the laws for dealing with the crime of murder are ineffective. More laws mean more violations, not less crimes. Even in cases in which the guilt of the rapist is not in doubt courts are compelled to set them free for want of adequate evidence for securing their conviction. The law in its present form provides for a minimum of seven years imprisonment and for life in the rarest of rare cases of rape. Statistics show that while the graph of crimes against women has shot up alarmingly over the past few years the rate of convictions has gone down during the same period.

If Mr Advani and Mr Digvijay Singh really care for the dignity of women, they should, instead of demanding the death sentence for rapists, examine the flaws in the current system of investigation of such cases. They must rise above narrow political considerations and mobilise public opinion against the oppressive “biradari system” in which the “sentence of rape” is passed against women for defying its strict social code of conduct. They must realise that the faceless rapist on the street is as much of source of insecurity for women and children as those who are in a position to bend the law in their favour. Most states have set up special cells for investigating crimes against women and yet the rate of conviction is low. This is an area which needs to be examined for plugging the loopholes for preparing foolproof cases against the beasts in human garb. The proposal for setting up special courts on the pattern of family courts and the ones for dealing with juvenile delinquency too should be examined. Those who are in favour of death sentence for rapists are evidently not aware of the global debate for the abolition of capital punishment for all forms of crimes. The demand is based on the assumption that society is responsible for breeding criminals and encouraging criminality. Any violation of prescribed laws by individuals or groups should be seen as the failure of the social apparatus. How far this point of view is correct is for social scientists to decide. As far as the proposal for awarding the death sentence to rapists is concerned, it has a serious in-built flaw. Those who may commit the crime of rape in the heat of the moment may be tempted to kill their victims if the proposed amendments in the rape laws are introduced. Why? Killing the victims may provide the culprits the opportunity to escape being punished, in the absence of witnesses, for rape. Besides, a rapist whose guilt is proved cannot be hanged twice for murder and rape.


Inspiration for Sarvodaya

WE have developed a creative tradition of naming our institutions, big or small, after great persons. Occasionally, we have taken this tendency to the ridiculous extent of idolatry. But we must put the symbols of intellectual excellence and moral fortitude on a pedestal. We should remember our great heroes, irrespective of the areas of their physical origin because they have generated ideas and ideas have moved the world. Among foreigners, Max Mueller, Tolstoy, Lenin, Anne Besant and Albert Schweitzer were some of the memorable figures after whom institutions, roads, colleges and schools have been named. Memories inspire the succeeding generations. We emulate, and move on from being to becoming. Among our primary centres of learning, Navodaya Vidyalayas and Sarvodaya Vidyalayas are known for their secular and nationalistic syllabi and discipline. Therefore, when the Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya located in Defence Colony in South Delhi was named the other day after the great freedom fighter from Bulgaria, Georgi Stoikov Rakovski, people interested in education and culture felt happy. India and Bulgaria have a warm bilateral relationship. The Bulgarian hero showed great interest in the first Indian freedom struggle in 1857. He became a legend in this country. But what are we doing with our own legends? A statue of the Bulgarian patriot was unveiled by President Peter Stoyonov in the school premises at a time when the images of Gandhi, Tilak, Nehru and Ambedkar are being vandalised in various places. Delhi's Lieutenant Governor and Chief Minister should see to it that the grand symbol is kept in good shape because Rakovski represented true internationalism and the unlimited freedom of man to live dangerously but without fear, holding his head high. There are about 300 Sarvodaya Vidyalayas in Delhi itself. Most of these have been associated with the names and deeds of freedom fighters, patriots and martyrs whose memories transcend the tyranny of time, contingency and conditioning. One hopes that the latest source of rich thoughts on the Kanya Vidyalaya premises will improve the quality of life and education in a congested locality dotted with teaching shops. Education, says Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, is one of the most essential tools of all-round development. It should always be based on facts. Remember that facts are not just given things; they are produced. Data are partial records which provide us with selective visibility in society and economy. As the inimitable Carr says, a fact is like a sack. It would not stand up unless you put something in it. It is always theory-inspired. It is theory which renders a piece of information relevant and hence accounts for its being selected as a fact. Sarvodaya Vidyalayas, unfortunately, have not yet proved their envisaged worth. Those who take credit for their development ought to know that a claim has to be backed by evidence which never exists in isolation. It is selected with reference to a broad idea which makes it consequential. That is "the something" which makes it stand up as a fact. We are in no hurry to generalise too quickly. Our conclusions may be tentative. But if we have to justifiably associate great names with our Sarvodaya and Navodaya Vidyalayas, we have to be slightly distant—and objective—from local circumstances, data and cleverly provided "knowledge". It is good to think of Rakovski who took great interest in our social conditions and civilisation when we were suffering under British rule. May the message that he gave to India lead us to a new awareness of our timeless legacy and heritage.


Role of intelligence agencies
by Kuldip Nayar

CHECKING the antecedents of officers is nothing new. The recent controversy involving IAF Chief S.K. Sareen was unfortunate. The Intelligence Bureau is all the time keeping surveillance on top military and civilian officers.

The real problem is about the new entrants to the government. The police has to check the antecedents of all those who are selected for government jobs through competitive examinations or through interviews by the Union Public Service Commission. Some of the selected have been rejected on the basis of the police report.

The guidelines for verification are: “In order to ensure that persons in government service are loyal, upright and impartial, it is necessary for the government to exercise discretion in the matter of appointments with a view to seeing that those persons who are likely to abuse the confidence placed in them are not appointed to public service. The appointing authority has also to satisfy itself that the candidate is in all respects suitable for appointment to the service or post in question.”

So far the entry of those belonging to radical and religious organisations has been blocked. The Naxalites, the RSS members as Jamaat-e-Islami members have been black-balled invariably. In fact, India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru intervened in the cases of two candidates who had been rejected by the police for their connection with the students’ federation, a communist outfit.

The “undesirable elements,” according to officials sources, “are those (a) who are, or have been members of, or associated with anybody or association declared unlawful after it was so declared; or (b) who have participated in, or associated with, any activity or programme (1) aimed at the subversion of the Constitution, (2) aimed at the organised defiance of the law involving violence, (3) prejudicial to the interests of sovereignty and integrity of India or the security of the state, or (4) which promotes, on grounds of religion, race, language, caste or community, feelings of enmity or hatred between different sections of the people.”

Till the other day, the “progressives” were regarded as subversive elements. The Congress governments felt that the RSS connections was a bad mark against a candidate. I do not know what are the instructions after Mr L.K. Advani has become the Home Minister. The IB is under his ministry. The guidelines are so vague that they can be interpreted differently by appointing authorities. Not long ago, three IAS recruits joined their training course at Mussoorie a few months late because their past association had raised doubts about them in the Home Ministry.Top

It looks as if there is too much emphasis on political leanings. In fact, the whole process of police verification is subjective. Besides, what happens to a person who at the time of verification is “all right” but becomes “undesirable” after completing his probation? It is necessary that a commission or parliamentary committee is appointed to look into the process of checking. It should also examine the cost of intelligence. Funds for such work, rightly or wrongly, are not subject to public scrutiny. But there must be some way of knowing whether the money is well spent. There have been instances where an informant has collected payment from more than one organisation by supplying the same information.

RAW is doing its job abroad and the IB within the country. Their secret funds are never disclosed. As India’s High Commissioner in London, I never knew what RAW was spending and where. Over the years, even the credibility of the two agencies has become questionable. Politicians use them and it has come to be accepted as a legitimate practice. The IB’s counterpart in the states is probably the most abused institution because it is employed to harass the critics and opponents and to concoct cases against them. The bulk of work by the agencies even at the Centre is to find out which politician is meeting whom and talking what. Dissenters within the ruling party are no exception. Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee has said, “ an intelligence report should be taken with the pinch of salt.”

Rajiv Gandhi would use RAW to check the antecedents of Congress candidates before elections. Some did not get the tickets because the agency did not give them a clean chit. He also used the intelligence agencies to find out how the polls would go. The IB claims that it told Indira Gandhi in 1976 that if she were to hold elections, the Congress would lose. I do not know how far it is correct because her remark after the polls was that the IB let her down by telling that she would win.

The intelligence agencies have now got so deeply involved in domestic politics that they have unchecked access at the top. The IB chief walks into the Prime Minister’s room straightaway. They talk about politics. So do the intelligence chiefs in the states. I would not be surprised if Mr Vajpayee keeps a tab on their senior colleagues. During the Gujral regime, former Prime Minister Deve Gowda said publicly that his telephone was tapped and that the CID checked on his movements. Mr Chandra Shekhar made a similar allegation when Mr V.P. Singh was the Prime Minister. A CBI probe, however, showed that it was not true. Nobody knows the truth. One intelligence agency going into the allegations against another is bound to protect it. Many sleuths are transferred from the CBI to the IB or the other way round. After all, they are part of the same establishment.

India has not found an Aslam Beg yet. The retired chief of army staff in Pakistan claimed on solemn oath before the Supreme Court of that country last year that the ISI was involved in the domestic politics of Pakistan. He said that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto created a special cell in 1975 “to collect truth and distort the record of the operations of the military intelligence agencies since independence.” Bhutto probably did not want the truth of Islamabad’s debacle in Bangladesh to come out.

The late President Giani Zail Singh told me more than once that his telephones at Rashtrapati Bhavan were tapped. It is an open secret that Rajiv Gandhi kept a check on visitors to the President’s house. Those were the days when insurgency in Punjab was at its peak, and when poor Gianiji’s name was dragged in for political gains. That was also the time when the Giani had before him the petition from Mr George Fernandes and Mr Rajinder Puri, seeking permission to sue Rajiv Gandhi in a court of law.

In fact, there is a larger question involved. A person considered dangerous in a particular regime may be having such beliefs as are not liked by those who are in power. In other words, the antecedents can become acceptable when a different government is sworn in. Critics of yesterday are the rulers of today. There is a case to ponder over the mode of checking. No method is correct per se. Should a brilliant candidate be rejected because he held a particular view at a particular time? And then what about the politicians who are all the time being followed by the intelligence agencies because of their importance in public life?

Intelligence agencies’ defence is that since there is hardly any significant political development, domestic or foreign, national or international, which does not impinge on national security, their activities are justified. This may be true as an argument. But at present they look like running our politics.


Internet & Chinese students
From Fons Tuinstra in Shanghai

IN China the government likes to be the top-down driving force behind the Internet. Public will is married with the dollars of foreign hi-tech companies dying to get a foothold in China’s booming computer market. But in education, perceived by many as most in need of getting online, funding can be hard to come by.

China’s education system is relatively underfunded, even when compared to other developing countries. So both schools and colleges are looking for other ways to get connected, which means that at the grassroots-level Internet usage and networking are starting to proliferate without much official interference or even approval.

In Shanghai, government money will only allow a pilot project of 50 key schools — the best in the city, of course — of the 2,000-odd total to get online. As a result, according to Prof Zhang Shiyong, Assistant President of Fudan University in Shanghai, the schools — well aware of the situation — are doing it for themselves.

Where municipal and district education committee funding runs short, the schools themselves levy charges to be paid directly either by the child or his/her parents.

It’s not just the funding. Even where government money is available for schools and universities, getting things done through government channels takes time. Where such a situation does not apply, the projects get the chance to become more individual. And at universities the students — who are more and more taking the lead — are a fine example.

The decade-old dormitory at the Minhang campus of Jiaotong University in Shanghai, for one, shows outside and inside the scars of the information age.

Until a few months ago, most dormitories, each hosting hundreds of students, offered only one phoneline, that would not permit direct dial services. Calling someone in such a dormitory was impossible since the line was always occupied, and using a bicycle was usually quicker.Top

Now everywhere you look, holes have been drilled in the walls for cables to be pulled. Although the building looks run-down, offering very little luxury to the four or five students that share each room, with only a bed and a desk for themselves, almost every room in this dormitory has at least one computer in place. Thirteen computers in this dormitory have been connected in a local network.

The habit of setting up local networks at universities is catching on. After all, connecting computers to a network gives the students all access to the outside world. Only one machine needs to be connected itself; all the others can then piggy-back on its phone line.

This trend may make assessing the number of Internet users in mainland China much harder than it already is. Officially the number of Internet accounts passed 1.2 million this summer. But when one Internet account has over 40 indirect users.

Leng Yong, who lives on the top floor, is the administrator of the network. His major is electrical engineering, but his real wish is to become an IT-specialist, a network builder. Last year he invested his savings into a computer and got his local network going. Other students would share a computer with three or four per room, in order to bring down the overhead expenses to affordable proportions.

“Almost every dormitory has now a computer”, says one of them. They exchange e-mails, information, even more software, and play games through their local network.

“What kind of information we are looking for?” asks Leng. “Mostly political and economic information, both domestic and international news.” They use both Chinese and non-Chinese sources. His screen shows the latest statements of the White House on the Clinton-Lewinsky affair.

Leng got once into trouble with his teachers when they discovered that he illegally tapped a phoneline that belongs to the university. He had to disconnect the link with the Internet. “The teachers were mainly worried about who would be paying for the costs”, Zheng says.

But recently Shanghai Post and Telecommunication, eager to find more customers, has installed phones in all dormitories. Although the usage is two to three times more expensive than an ordinary line — each student gets a personal access code to the system — Leng was one of the first to sign up, connecting his network again to his Internet account. —Gemini


Patchy Panchkula
by D.R. Sharma

NESTLING at the feet of the Shivalik hills, the town of Panchkula charms the visitor with its ecological peace and wide roads and its heritage of once being the confluence of five mythical streams. It is perhaps this distinction that motivates some of the leaders in Haryana to further enhance its glory. While one promises to make it the Paris of India, the other focuses on Zurich and discovers a mysterious parallel between the Ghaggar and the Limmat. It is this bravado that makes me pray for the town where power (not political) remains both erratic and expensive.

What worries me about the town is its burgeoning urban culture which is yet to acquire depth and direction. Undoubtedly HUDA has done good work for “culture” to take off — from the Yavnika open-air theatre, from the fragrance and cacti gardens and from the Topiary Park which admirably greens the animal world. Probably another garden is being designed to astonish the viewers with its herbal treasure.

Along with this visual support for culture, the town management board has taken good care of the gastronomic aspect of culture. There are numerous eateries in the heart of the city centre as well as around its rim. If you want loud music and a massage before your meal, then North Park across the river can fit the bill. If you want a mix of privacy and class, then you could try for membership of the Gymkhana Club.

After highlighting these civic amenities, I feel sorry for the hitherto patchy destiny of Panchkula. I think the quality of a town, whether governed by mandarins or Marxists, is shaped by the minds of its residents. And the mind needs its own nutrients. Clubs, restaurants, fashion shows, beauty contests, musical concerts and jasmine whiffs are like the salad for the mind, not its main dish. The main dish is the library, the home of experience and insight, which sustains and nurtures it.

If one day this lovely town builds a library — with the help of the government, philanthropists and numerous academics who have settled here—we would notice a perceptible change in the driving habits of its entrepreneurs. The vimps at the wheel on the road between Chandigarh and Panchkula will demonstrate the creative spirit of culture that emanates from books. There is no Hercules in Haryana to divert the river and make it flow through the heart of the town, but I feel that with a library, and possibly a coffee house, Panchkula could be a welcome stop-over after Paris and Zurich.


Complete confusion in BJP mind
By K. Vaidiyanathan

MR MANI Shankar Aiyar (57) needs no introduction to the Indian public. He is one of those few Indian Foreign Service officials who resigned their jobs to enter politics. A former aide of the late Rajiv Gandhi and a columnist of repute, Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar is known for his caustic comments and satirical expressions. His electoral debut was in 1991 from the Myladuthurai constituency in Tamil Nadu. An active member of the Lok Sabha, Mr Aiyar has made a mark as an effective parliamentarian who excels in debates.

The writer met him recently to know his reaction about the reverses of the Congress (I) in Andhra and Karnataka elections. The following are excerpts from the interview:

Q: Does it imply that the Congress is not prepared to join hands with anybody to form a government if it does not reach the 270 - mark.

A: When you talk of coalitions it does not mean that it can only be the kind of 18-party coalition that presently is in power and dances to the tunes of every junior partner in the arrangement. There is another kind of coalition which has been in power in West Bengal. It is a known fact that it is not a CPM Government which is in power but it is far ahead of other parties in the coalition that it is as good as a CPM Government. May be in the future there might be a need for the Congress to take in one or two minor partners to gain the majority mark. Even in such a situation, it would be more or less a single party arrangement than the kind of coalition others have been cobbling up. In this light I definitely do not agree that we have gone to the end of the single party dominance. The experiences of the last two years have been so disquieting that the electorate would prefer not to scatter their votes and prefer a single party or single party dominant coalition.

Q: Did they not do it in the last elections also, thinking that the BJP as the dominant party would ensure such a stability.Top

A: They did, but they are very much disappointed. The BJP expected to do very much better than it did in UP, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in particular. When they are not even regionally predominant, it is surprising how they aspire to be nationally predominant.

Q: If that be so for the BJP, don’t you feel the position of the Congress is much more worse than the BJP considering its position in UP, Bihar, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

A: It may be. But we are not a party confined or dependent upon the support from one or two states in the Union. One third of the 180-odd seats the BJP has in the present Lok Sabha comes from Uttar Pradesh and more than half comes from two or three states. On the other hand the strength of the Congress is literally pooled from everywhere. Not only that. The Congress is in a position to field its own candidates from every seat and secondly its national profile is much broader than that of the BJP.

Q: May be. At the same time, is it not equally true that the Congress has touched the nadir or rock bottom in at least four states — Tamil Nadu, UP, Bihar and West Bengal.

A: If ‘nadir’ is defined as zero we have touched rock bottom in Tamil Nadu and near that in the other states you have mentioned. For 30 years the Congress Party has not seen the inside of Fort St. George in Tamil Nadu and the chances of its coming to power on its own there for the next 30 years is also remote. Nevertheless there is not a village, not a street, not a lane in Tamil Nadu where there is not at least one person to hold the Congress flag and be proud of being a Congressman there. This holds good all over India and that is what a national party is. There are endless villages, streets and lanes where no one belongs to the BJP.

Q: May be true. At the same time has not the BJP managed to reach the magic figure of 270 in the last elections by surpassing and replacing the Congress as the major political force in the country? After all the strength of the party in a democracy is measured by the seats it wins in an election.

A: You cannot have a situation in which when the Congress under Rajiv Gandhi gets 192 seats in 1989, he was said to have lost and the BJP with its allies gets 192 seats they are said to have won. How can it be? The BJP’s victory and its euphoria of having formed an unstable government are all myopic, because the BJP itself is confused whether it has won or lost in the battle.

Q: Are you of the opinion that the BJP will never reach the 270 mark on its own.

A: They are now at 180. The existential dilemma of the BJP is that it won its first 100 seats through religious fanaticism and the next 50 seats through moderation. It can win the next 100 seats only by falling back on secularism. At that point it will start losing its first 100 seats. That is why the BJP does not know whether to go down the Advani way or go down the Vajpayee way. The only way it can go down the two paths at the same time is to split. I am convinced that any further increase in its strength can come only through a split in the BJP with a moderate and an extremist wing. I foresee a split as an inevitable consequence of trying to push either the Advani or the Vajpayee line.

Q: What according to you will eventually prevail, the Advani line or the Vajpayee line.

A: The bulk of the BJP, the Sangh Parivar, is not in politics for the sake of grabbing power. They are there to avenge themselves on history and with a societal purpose. For them it makes no difference whether they win or lose elections because they want to stick to their own agenda. Therefore, it is much more likely that the Advani line will prevail over the Vajpayee line.

Q: It is the Advani line that has enabled the BJP to grow from just two seats in 1984 to the present position of forming a coalition at the Centre. Will it not consolidate the BJP’s strength further and give the party individual majority.

A: If the Advani line prevails then something that happened to the BJP on December 6, 1992, will repeat. When they brought down the Babri Masjid they started saying that they have demolished only a disputed structure. If it was only a disputed structure why did they break it? If it was mosque, why don’t they come out and say today that it was a mosque? The fanaticism that they spread got vanished the moment the objective was achieved. Most Hindus who earlier sympathised with the BJP got horrified by the way a place of worship was brutally brought down. The same thing will repeat when the Advani line prevails.Top

Q: Is it your opinion that the Hindutva of the BJP will not help the BJP.

A: The BJP would have been very successful in Pakistan as a religion based fanatical party. Hinduism of the BJP is a semiticised form of Hinduism which has nothing to do with the Shankaracharyas or our religious faiths. Hindus of India are basically a tolerant people who look upon all faiths as part of one great faith. BJP cannot flourish among the Hindus of India. That is what I feel.

Q: All your arguments apart, the reality is that the pro-Hindutva line has enabled the party to capture power at the Centre aided and supported by even secular parties. What have you to say about that.

A: The BJP is not in power. It is Ms Jayalalitha who is in power. They are entirely dependent on the whims of one lady and the intentions of another. Mrs Sonia Gandhi can bring them down any day. If they are in power today, it is because she doesn’t chose to do it. Again, their remaining in power depends entirely on Ms Jayalalitha whose withdrawal of support will bring this government down like a pack of cards.

Q: Is the AIADMK not withdrawing its support because the Congress (I) is not all that willing to take her support.

A: I don’t know why Ms Jayalalitha is not withdrawing her support. Everything that she has said tends to indicate that logically she should withdraw her support. Having laid down the reasons for withdrawing support, it is only expected of her to do so.

Q: How do you look at the performance of this government, particularly on the economic front.

A: Newspapers have reported a CII survey in which over half the people they interviewed have never felt more pessimistic. There is a complete want of confidence in the ability of the government to revive the economy. The mechanism of an economy matters much less than the expectations of the people.

If people in India do not expect a recovery, the recovery cannot be there. Until and unless this government goes the expectations of the people will rise to the level required to kick-start the economy. You cannot kick-start the economy by mechanical means. Dr Manmohan Singh’s greatest asset was not his economics but his ability to inspire confidence in people that the economy was on the right track. So long as you do not have the sense of confidence in the government and in its economic policies, an economy cannot be revived or kick started.

Q: Political stability has nothing to do with economic stability. Unstable coalitions in Italy have not affected that country’s economic growth or development. Why is it that the present situation has an adverse impact on Indian economy.

A: There is complete confusion in the minds of the BJP as to what should be the objective they should pursue. That is why this complete spinning out of control of prices. Dr Manmohan was very clear that growth at every cost but not at the cost of price rise. Throughout the time that he was in charge of Finance, he saw to it that the rate of inflation was firmly kept under control. If you cannot control prices you are not in control of the economy. Especially this is so in a democratic set-up and that is where the BJP Government is falling miserably.Top

Q: Is it not a fact that both the earlier UF Government and the present BJP alliance pursue only the path laid by Dr Manmohan Singh.

A: No. They are neither following the Manmohan Singh policies nor pursuing their own policies. They are very very confused about the attitude towards foreign investors. The same man who was a member of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch is today the Finance Minister of India. He is engaged so much on annoying the platform on which he became the Finance Minister. Swadeshi Jagran Manch is today conducting seminars condemning Yashwant Sinha’s economic policies. The confusion they have about what to do with the minorities is also there in what to do with foreign investors. If we are not sure about what role the foreign investors should play in our economy, how can we expect the foreigners to know about our requirements?

Q: What difference you see between the earlier United Front experiment and the present BJP arrangement.

A: The earlier one was a loose coalition of opportunists while present one is a coalition of ideological fanatics, moderates and opportunists. Confusion began in the lead party’s camp with the BJP itself putting its Hindutva agenda on the backburner in order to get other allies. They are, in other words, attempting to run a Congress policy without the Congress Party and that is why they are falling flat.

Q: Don’t you see a scenario where Indian democracy is moving towards a bi-polar arrangement with the BJP with its allies on the one hand and the Congress and others forming an alternative.

A: We are certainly moving towards a greater measure of plurality in our polity. At the moment, to compare the Congress with the BJP is like comparing a mountain with a molehill. The BJP is so regionally served as to be effectively confined to an area which is 500 km around Delhi. India is a vast country.

Q: If this BJP arrangement falls, is the Congress strong enough with the masses to effectively replace it and form a stable government.

A: There are two alternative scenarios. One is that, within the present Lok Sabha we cobble together an alternative, at least for some time. The other is to go in for an election. Since it is still not clear when the BJP Government would collapse, it is difficult to predict which of these two scenarios will be more attractive at that point of time when it collapses. The question is too hypothetical to give a definitive answer.

Q: Is the Congress very definite that it is not aligning with regional forces.

A: We have said that we will align with other parties only when it is absolutely necessary. When we align it must be on the basis of a common minimum programme and must completely exclude communal and casteist forces. We have not excluded regional forces provided they are not confined to religion or caste.

Q: How do you then look at regional parties like the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal? Do you consider them secular forces or as casteist forces.

A: They are secular no doubt. Whether they are casteist or not depends upon the programmes that they agree upon.

Q: These parties have a grouse that the Congress is trying to eat into their support base rather than join hands with them to fight the BJP. How do you react to that.

A: This is the difference between a regional party and a national party. The Samajwadi Party is a regional party with a national office whereas the Congress is a national party with regional units. There could be difference of perspectives between our party high command and the view of the regional units. In UP, our regional unit would like to fight the Samajwadi Party in order to regain our predominance in the State. Because it is part of the all-India party, our State unit is sure to go with the decision taken by the Congress high command. Certainly we cannot dismiss the Samajwadi Party as a communal or casteist party nor take a position that we will not have an alliance with it under any circumstance.Top

Q: What is going to be the likely scenario in Tamil Nadu, as far as the Congress (I) is concerned.

A: “We have on the one hand the DMK, which we ourselves have accused of having done the stage setting for the LTTE’s assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Almost every charge made by the Congress (I) has been validated by the Jain Commission also. We can definitely rule out any kind of arrangement with the DMK at this moment. We have no understanding as of now with the AIADMK too. Therefore our options are as open as that of Ms Jayalalitha.

Q: Don’t you agree that it is time that the Congress (I) cobbles up a third front in Tamil Nadu keeping both the DMK and the AIADMK at bay.

A: I think a third force led by the Congress (I) in Tamil Nadu must totally exclude the TMC because the TMC is a party that was born out of a quarrel within the Congress family which has since died. There was a dispute over Narasimha Rao and he is no longer the Congress President. The Congress today is led by Mrs Sonia Gandhi, the wife of Rajiv Gandhi in whose very name the TMC is running its show in Tamil Nadu. It will make sense if the TMC merges with the Congress (I) rather than have an understanding with that party. I am of the personal view that even the merger of the TMC with the Congress (I) must be on a strict condition that the two traitors most responsible for wrecking the Congress Party in Tamil Nadu, namely, G.K. Moopanar and P. Chidambaram, should be expelled for ever from the Congress (I) and should not be taken in.

Q: What future do you foresee for the TMC if it remains separate.

A: The only future it has is as the soft wing of the DMK. Moopanar has given up everything for which Kamaraj and the Congress fought. The TMC now exists, as I see it, for only one purpose. That is to prevent Ms Jayalalitha from becoming the Chief Minister again. Can this be a worthy enough objective for any political party? They are obsessed with Ms Jayalalitha because her return to power would put an end to the day dream of P. Chidambaram of becoming a Chief Minister. — Newscribe



Takia-Mandir Dispute

HEARING in the above case was resumed today in the court of Sirdar Sahib Bhai Hardyal Singh, Magistrate, First Class. The accused were defended by L. Duni Chand Nagpal, Vakil.

Nine witnesses for the defence were examined today out of whom D.W. Shyam Sunder, nephew of Gobind Ram, produced several rent deeds relating to the site in dispute in proof of their possession of the site.

D.W. Rupa Singh, a tenant of the accused, stated that he had rented the place from the accused for running a bhatti (a small oven) in it. There was khathi in it which had been demolished.

L. Balmukand Bhatia Vakil, L. Duni Chand, M.A., Vakil, and Municipal Commissioners L. Tilok Chand, Honorary Magistrate L. Bishen Das, Hony Magistrate and Notary Public, Bhai Harnam Singh M.C. and Notary Public, L. Lachhmi Narain and L. Duni Chand, Municipal Commissioners were the other defence witnesses and stated the accused to be of good conduct and peaceable dispositions. The case stands adjourned for further defence evidence next month.

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