Sushma Swaraj Vs Arun Jaitley!
After Mrs Sushma Swaraj gave an interview to Outlook weekly, the BJP went in an overdrive to claim that there were no differences in the highest echelons of its parliamentary party. The party blamed the media for assuming a non-existent rift within the party. To assess the BJP claim, let us recall what happened and what it indicated. In the Outlook interview the leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Mrs Sushma Swaraj, was asked: “What about your links with the Reddy brothers of Bellary?”
It was a simple question that merited a simple answer. She could have said that she had cordial relations with them as a party colleague. If questioned further, she could have denied having any other political or business links with them. Instead she gave a very long reply saying: “There can’t be a bigger lie. Let me tell you the truth. I have no hand in the political making of the Bellary brothers. I had nothing to do in making them ministers or in building up their stature as political leaders. When the Bellary brothers were made ministers, Jaitelyji was in charge, Yeddyurappa was the Chief Minister, Venkaiahji and Ananth Kumar were there as senior leaders. Whatever discussion happened, happened between these people. I had nothing to do with it … after being told by Rajnathji and Jaitleyji, I spoke to the brothers. My photograph with them is from that time. It has been printed everywhere and people have been saying I am the protector of the Bellary brothers. I have nothing to do with them—whether in their business or their political rise … there’s a huge campaign of misinformation and disinformation against me … I haven’t even played a zero per cent role in the political making of the Bellary brothers. Whatever they got wealth wise, was the doing of the Congress … What the Bellary brothers gained politically was because of Yeddyurappa and … Arun Jaitley …”
Does one sense a touch of panic in this response? She was spouting information that was not being sought. Nobody asked her how the Reddy brothers became ministers. Her answer should be contrasted with what she told a radio interviewer over a year ago. In that interview she acknowledged good relations with the Reddy brothers. At that time the brothers were a political asset. Radio archival records would bear this out. By raking up the issue of the Reddy brothers, she has helped the Congress divert public attention from the corruption scams bedeviling their government to the Karnataka corruption and the BJP.
More significantly, this is the third time that Mrs Swaraj has served the interests of the Congress party. Earlier, during the controversy surrounding the appointment of Mr PJ Thomas as the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) she had exposed the lie spoken by Home Minister P Chidamabaram. She threatened to file an affidavit in court to expose the government’s perjury. Mr Chidambaram somersaulted to admit the truth. She conveniently decided against filing the affidavit. After the Supreme Court nailed the PMO in the CVC affair the BJP announced intention to introduce a privilege motion against the PM for misleading parliament. The PM publicly apologised and accepted responsibility for the CVC goof-up. Again, Mrs Swaraj ignored her party to protect the Congress by unilaterally stating that after the PM’s statement the issue should be considered settled.
Most significantly, Mrs Swaraj’s conduct should be seen in the larger context. Her mentor, Mr LK Advani, was no less sympathetic to protecting the interests of the Congress party. Mr Advani had charged Mrs Sonia Gandhi with having a foreign bank account. He had very good reason to do so. There were very credible allegations to that effect made by official and reputed foreign sources. Mrs Gandhi wrote to Mr Advani assuring him that she had no foreign bank account. That was sufficient to convince Mr Advani! He promptly apologized to Mrs Gandhi. That led me to write: “What touching faith between the two most senior leaders respectively of the Congress and the BJP. Is this the prelude to an openly declared partnership between them?”
In the light of all this the BJP cannot blame the media for concluding that not only is there a rift within the BJP. There also seems to be covert cross-party alliances between different sections within the Congress and the BJP that are opposed to each other. This kind of Byzantine intrigue and conspiracy suggests vulnerable politicians who are open to blackmail and coercion. The RSS is reputed to have the final say in matters related to the BJP. Both the RSS and the BJP President are doing their best to play down the controversy ignited by the press interview given by Mrs Swaraj. By denying a rift after Mrs Swaraj’s outburst BJP leaders do not deceive the world. They only deceive themselves. It is a typical and predictable reaction. The BJP top brass dare not make any move to rock the boat. They should know that the boat is sinking.
By Rajinder Puri