Few politicians bounce back after a decade and a half in relative oblivion. However, the BJP, which justified sidelining leaders like L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha on the ground that they had crossed the age of 75, has already made an eye-popping exception for Subramanian Swamy, who will be 77 this September.
Returning to Parliament for the first time since 1999 as a presidential nominee to the Rajya Sabha, Swamy has taken to his role as the party’s inquisitor-in-chief with an enthusiasm that has galvanised BJP cadres and supporters. He lives up to his reputation of being feisty when we catch up with him at his government bungalow on Pandara Road.
His staff claim he is the second-most popular leader on Twitter after Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And he himself says 70 per cent of his tweets are tweets sent to him by his 2.6 million followers on Twitter. “The percentage is seven to nine per cent at best in the case of other leaders,” he says. He follows 101 Twitter handles, we point out, and ask him to name three of his favourites. “They are all news agencies,” he says dismissively, with a wave of his hand. Excerpts from an interview with Uttam Sengupta:
Thank you, Dr Swamy, for giving this interview at short notice.
This is the first time I am speaking to Outlook since 1997, when you carried a ‘front page news’ at the behest of Sonia Gandhi that I had engaged with the Israelis to kill Rajiv Gandhi.
Since you raised it, I am told you claim to have been a friend of his....
I was a buddy...we had very friendly relations. Remember, I was an enemy of the LTTE and the CRPF that you see here was deployed from that time by way of protection. This was withdrawn...