February 23, 2015 12:05:37 am
Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, talks to Muzamil Jaleel about Congress’s plan to oppose land ordinance, PM’s speech on religious tolerance and politics in J&K and Delhi
On the land acquisition ordinance
We will strongly oppose and resist it. The BJP has no right to bring any such amendment or dilute the very spirit of this Act. The land acquisition Act is a progressive piece of legislation that should have come into being a long time ago but it took our party more than five years to convince other parties and build a consensus. We took everybody on board. The Act was passed unanimously in both Houses of Parliament that included the BJP, and the chairperson of the standing committee was an eminent BJP leader, current Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. Besides, two amendments by the then Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and one amendment by then deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ravi Shankar Prasad were incorporated before it was passed unanimously by the two houses. Once the standing committee led by Sumitra Mahajan approved the bill, it was discussed by the House for 12 hours and 60 members took part in the discussion before it was passed unanimously. The honourable Speaker of the Lok Sabha knows it very well. We will not let the BJP take away all the safeguards from this law. We have decided that.
On the PM’s speech pledging “equal respect to all religions” and “complete freedom of faith”
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This is too little, too late. We would have liked him to make this speech in Parliament particularly during the winter session when the proceedings of the house were practically stopped for almost two weeks. The entire opposition demanded that the Prime Minister come before the House and assure the nation that the Prime Minister and this government belong to everybody and minorities need not worry, their places of worship will be protected, and the secular fabric of the country will not be allowed to shatter, irrespective of whatever the RSS and several ministers and MPs of the BJP were saying against minorities. He should have condemned that in Parliament.
It is most unfortunate that the Prime Minister did not oblige Parliament and it was only after President Obama had to remind him on two occasions that not everything is going well in India and finally the Delhi election results, where the politics of hatred and communalism was overwhelmingly rejected, that the Prime Minister was forced to speak out at a function. While I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement, at the same time I don’t know whether it was given under compulsion or by conviction.
On the BJP-PDP alliance in J&K
The state government in J&K will now be run from Nagpur because the headquarters of the RSS is in Nagpur. We were told that the PDP and BJP have been talking about government formation for the last two months but now we know that was all a farce. It is clear that the coalition was formed only after the approval of the RSS. Yesterday, the RSS gave them the green signal and the BJP went ahead. Unlike in the past, this time the BJP didn’t even try to hide the fact that their decision needed permission from Nagpur. This government will not be run from Srinagar or Jammu. This government will not be run even from Delhi. Otherwise, left to Mufti sahib, we would have had no problem. But once he went with the BJP, the command of such a coalition government will not stop with the Prime Minister but go beyond that.
Everything that will happen in J&K now will be decided by the RSS. And how will that impact the state, everybody knows.
On Bihar politics
The BJP was trying to fish in troubled waters by supporting a chief minister who has miserably lost the support of his partymen and was left with only 12 MLAs while Nitish Kumar had the support of 130 party legislators. Only a naïve person in politics can support such a CM. Besides, the BJP was supporting him (Manjhi) through the Speaker, the Governor and all other unfair means, which has further damaged the BJP’s image in Bihar. These actions by the BJP have strengthened Nitish-Sharad-Lalu trio.
On the Congress decimation in Delhi
I look at it a bit differently. There are two aspects to it. First, the Congress needs to work very hard across the country and also in Delhi to rejuvenate itself. We need to do serious introspection and strengthen our organisation at every level. The second aspect has gone unnoticed. Zero seats for the Congress does not mean zero support for the Congress. For the last one year, the BJP has been trying its level best to polarise voters in Delhi. This had its own effect. The voters were divided sharply in secular and non-secular camps and as the AAP was stronger in Delhi, the entire secular vote supported them. So it wasn’t a vote against the Congress but against the BJP. If we talk of decimation, it was the decimation of the BJP in Delhi.
It is too early to judge the political leadership of Mr Kejriwal. He has won the first battle with a thumping majority but his real test has started now. How long and how far he will be able to carry along all sections of society and also fulfil the high expectations of the Delhi voters needs to be seen.
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