Friday, July 25, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Nation on verge of disintegration, says
Chandra Shekhar
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 24
Former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar is categoric that the aim of all political parties “which count in the political sphere is to capture power and serve their ends.”

He warns that if the present drift of sidelining the peoples’ problems and concerns continues, then the situation “will worsen and take the country on the verge of disintegration.”

Stressing that the situation is alarming with frustration and despair all around, Mr Chandra Shekhar said there would be nothing left (in the budget) for development in the next five to 10 years. “Even if all the developed countries try to help India, they can’t prevent a crisis developing in the near future,” he observed in an exclusive and wide-ranging interview.

Lambasting the disinvestment of Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs), the former Prime Minister was pained that agriculture, which was the mainstay of the economy, had been the worst sufferer. He rued the vaccilation of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in dealing firmly with terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir and tilting towards the majority community without keeping in mind the unity and integrity of the country.

“A crisis has been created due to religious fanaticism which is worsening every day,” Mr Chandra Shekhar maintained. “There is no other option but to meet the urges and aspirations of the minorities which has been ignored.”

He said hopes were raised by the effort of a religious leader for solving the Ayodhya tangle by July 6 but it came unstuck. “The ultimate verdict of the Saint (Kanchi Seer) was nothing but a pure and simple expression of the government’s views. The problem has arisen from treating everybody on unequal terms and tilting towards the majority community.”

On Indo-Pak relations, Mr Chandra Shekhar said the situation was the “worst on the Kashmir front and no country facing a conflict situation should say that “we shall not talk. At the same time we should be clear in defending our borders. The only good thing is that nobody wants confrontation between India and Pakistan which can be leveraged to postpone the crisis.”

He failed to understand the constant talk of cross-border terrorism and the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Defence Minister making contradictory statements. Three SAARC meetings were postponed because the government said that it will not talk to a military dictator. “At the same time we were the first to recognise Gen Pervez Musharraf as the President of Pakistan even before the Supreme Court of Pakistan accorded recognition under duress.”

He wondered whether it is Gen Musharraf’s responsibility to safeguard India’s interests be it Kaluchak, Akshardham or the “insulting and humiliating” attack on the Akhnoor army camp in a part of Kashmir. “We had ten lakh jawans on the border and more of them died of tension and disease. Is this the way to run the country? Was cross-border terrorism over when the army was withdrawn from the border?”

About foreign policy shifts, Mr Chandra Shekhar said top functionaries of the government were going to different countries and asserting that everything was in favour of India. The recent example is Mr Vajpayee’s visit to China.

Elaborating, the former Prime Minister said newspaper reports said China had accepted Sikkim as a part of India. Within 12 hours, the Chinese spokesman said it was true that India had accepted Tibet as a part of China. However, on Sikkim, the Chinese spokesman said that a lot more needed to be discussed. “I don’t know how successful was Mr Vajpayee’s visit to China. There was no mention of Arunachal Pradesh.”

Mr Chandra Shekhar ruled out the possibility of a Third force. There are two fronts which are not an alternative to each other. Most of the policies in the last 10 to 12 years have been dictated by certain powerful countries of the world.

“A Third force given the present leadership is an impossibility. However, if the disillusioned people rise unitedly, a third force can be formed as it happened in 1977. The lamp of democracy was flickering which has been extinguished for all time. The peoples’ intuitive reaction brought this nation on the path of democracy.”

Mr Chandra Shekhar said political vendatta is against the spirit, norms and tradition of Parliamentary democracy. “It is wrong to make politics a family affair which is bound to degenerate and throw up many evils,” he added.

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