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'[Atal And Advani] Should Step Aside'

The controversial interview given by the Sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Kuppahalli Sitaramayya Sudarshan, to Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief of The Indian Express, on NDTV 24X7's Walk the Talk.

NDTVShekhar GuptaIndian Express INTERVIEWS | 17 April 2005
'[Atal And Advani] Should Step Aside'
'[Atal And Advani] Should Step Aside'
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Text courtesy, The Indian Express, April 17, 2005. Filed on June 21, 2005 for record and archival purposes.


You are very media shy.

The reason is that as children we would sing a song.

(Recites the song)

This song means shun the media and fame, and work to make the nation strong.

Once a person becomes publicity-conscious, he loses his way; he just wants to see his name in print. That’s all he wants. Work is no longer a priority. To give you an example, during a flood, several leaders visited the spot. They stood in knee-deep water and asked: ‘Where is the photographer?’ All they wanted to show was that they were there.

Just as ministers who undertake an aerial survey.

Yes. They just want to show that they were there. But that does not solve the problem. We have to be like stones in a foundation and help build the nation. Our people, therefore, work in remote areas for social causes.

Thirty-three of your organisations are working at various places.

I’ve lost count, but there must be at least 33-34 important ones. A person is teaching in Dharchula. Who goes to that place in Himachal Pradesh?

Is that why the RSS leadership maintains a low profile?

Yes.

But those who come into politics, like BJP leaders?

That is the nature of politics. People in politics have to be in the public eye, in the limelight. The danger is that they may end up only seeking fame.

Have you seen people getting lost, like so many people in politics, from RSS?

Yes, people lose their way, but that does not surprise us. Politics is a game that has elements of jealousy, anger, covetousness, fame. That’s why a lot of people get spoilt. So, if someone adheres to our principles while in politics, we take it as a victory.

Do you think most of the people who’ve gone into politics from the RSS have been able to stick to its principles?

Some have been able to do it, but others have lost their way.

Have you thought about why this has happened?

No, no. This is politics. In 1962, at an election meeting Deen Dayal Upadhyay was asked what was the guarantee that after coming to power the Jan Sangh would not become corrupt. Upadhyayji replied that there is no guarantee. Power is intoxicating; whoever gets it wants more.

When the BJP was in power for six years, some of its leaders were part of embarrassing controversies. They were from an RSS background, even the dissidents — Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharati. The common view was that the people from RSS would be disciplined.

It’s not like that. Even though people are from the Sangh, they are human. They can be influenced by a lot of factors. If a person gives in to outside influence, he may be spoilt. Chances of this happening in politics are more than in any other sphere of life. All we say is that our values were not strong enough in the person.

What are you doing to correct this?

To correct it, all you can do is leave politics. There are a lot of party workers who have left politics to come to the Sangh.

Are there any senior politicians who should come back to the Sangh?

We have taken some back. Some have come back to Sangh.

I would like to especially talk about Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharati. They are spoiling the BJP’s image, do you agree?

Uma Bharati has two personalities. In her last birth she must have been a yogi, which is why even as a six-year-old she would give pravachans on the Bhagvad. But in this birth, she has been born into a not-so-cultured family. The best in her comes out when she gets a platform or is faced with a challenge. Her speech against the no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha was the best. But on the other extreme she behaves like a child, she is obstinate. I’ve told her this. I’ve known her for a long time.

What did she say when you told her?

She didn’t say anything. But she heard me out.

Does she listen to you?

Yes, she does.

If so, you must be the only one she listens to.

That’s okay.

Can somebody with this attitude, whether you call it a dual personality or confusion, be made a chief minister?

Once she was in the BJP, it was the leadership’s prerogative to give her what they liked. But, very soon she realised that something was wrong. She was told that she’ll have to meet people, but the sheer number of people who came to meet her scared her. And in front of all the reporters she started crying. She knew that it would not work. And that’s why we told them to send her where there’s a challenge and make her primarily do party work.

What about her boycott of Advaniji’s meeting?

Yes, that was wrong.

The party’s image as well as the RSS’s image was sullied.

Not the RSS’s image, she is not a member of the RSS.

But she’s identified most with RSS, whether it is her clothes or what she says.

She is identified more with the VHP. People call it Sangh Parivar but they should actually call it the vichar parivar (family of ideas). All organisations are independent from the Sangh. People don’t understand that. They think that if RSS says it, it’ll happen. But that is not right.

But in the cusp of the RSS and politics, two people who most symbolise it are Uma Bharati and Govindacharya. There has been talk that they have spoiled the image of the Sangh.

At one time they wanted to get married. But, Bhaurao Deoras told them that it wouldn’t be good for them. So, they didn’t go ahead. He then called Swami Vishesh Tirth, chief acharya of the Madhav Sampradaya, to Amarkantak and Uma Bharati was given sanyas diksha. I was also present. Later, after she became chief minister, she told a reporter that Govindacharya was like a brother to her and that was the only relationship the two of them shared.

What was the harm in their getting married?

It wasn’t meant to be. Bhaurao Deoras felt it was wrong and she took sanyas.

But people comment that they do everything together. Whether it’s politics or dissidence against Atalji.

No, there’s nothing like that. That’s their independent thinking and they act according to it.

Govindji is a senior leader, he’s vocal, intelligent; so when he criticises the BJP on its 25th birthday and says that BJP has lost its way...

He’s not in BJP anymore.

Do you agree with his points of criticism?

What points?

That BJP has lost its way and that it has forgotten the Hindutva path.

VHP has also been saying this.

You just said that VHP and RSS are separate.

Yes, they are separate. VHP and BJP are also separate. But the point is they had to be part of a coalition. After the elections, there was a debate on whether the BJP should or should not form the government.

You wanted them to form the government?

We wanted it. Because the other option wasn’t acceptable, a foreign woman being made the PM. That wasn’t good for our country. So, I told him that you should be the PM. And so they had to compromise. They had to put aside their own agendas of the Ram Mandir, Article 370 and the common personal code.

What is the balance sheet of the BJP-led NDA’s six-year rule?

First, as soon as they came to power they made India a nuclear power and this got India prestige in the world. Moreover, they did it with such stealth that even the US spy satellites didn’t get to know.

When did you learn about it?

Later. We knew that during its 13-day rule the NDA had spoken to experts and told them that they wanted it done. The scientists had said that once they win the vote of confidence and give the go-ahead, it would take a month of preparations after that.

They didn’t talk to you about the consequences?

No, they didn’t speak to us.

Did they tell you after the 13-day rule?

During the 13 days, they found out that they would need a month to get it done. Next time they had the month.

What were their other achievements?

As a fallout of the nuclear tests, the US got angry and imposed sanctions, but the NDA did not let this bother them.

Then the US tried to improve the relationship.

The US took the first step. The US thinks that its biggest enemy is China, and India is the only one capable of standing up to China. But at the same time, the US is also helping Pakistan.

But the NDA government and this one, both have been working to improve ties with China?

While improving relations, you should keep the national interest in mind.

So, according to you the NDA government’s biggest achievements have been its policy on national security and foreign affairs?

Yes.

Was the NDA right in the way it handled Pakistan?

Pakistan’s identity depends on its enmity with India. And if this is removed then Pakistan will be finished. Pakistan’s administrators know this very well. If the people-to-people relations improve, then Pakistan will not be able to survive. This whole partition is artificial. They blame India for all their problems. For example, in Bangladesh the price of salt had soared to about Rs 4-5. When the experts were asked for a reason, they said because of India. When asked the price of salt in India, the professors replied: Re 1. So, the poor man said then why don’t we become India. That is the belief of the common man.

The common man believes that the Sangh does not want relations with Pakistan and China to improve. Do you agree with the policies that the NDA government followed and now the Dr Manmohan Singh government is following?

We don’t want the national interests to be harmed in any way. There should be no compromises on that. Today, Pakistan is sending militants trained in PoK to Kashmir to terrorise people. Musharraf, under pressure from the US, has banned terrorist organisations. Even so, they (militants) are being trained in PoK.

What will India gain if relations with Pakistan improve?

If the image improves among the common people, then Pakistan will be finished. So, our gameplan should be to try and improve relations.

That is why the Army is always in power in Pakistan.

Yes, the Army is always in power. More importantly, they have removed all the madarsas from there. However, the chief of all madarsas has said, ‘We have been banned in Pakistan but we will continue in India.’ In border areas we have madarsas where Pakistanis come to study.

Do you support the peace talks with Pakistan?

Yes, our only worry is national interest. If Pakistan keeps promoting terrorism, we will not support the peace talks.

I’ll re-phrase the question. Are the peace talks begun by Atalji and taken forward by Manmohan Singh, in India’s national interest?

Yes, we should have peace with all our neighbours.

What is happening right now, is it in the national interest?

Right now, they are promoting terrorism. Terrorists are coming here after being trained there.

You believe terrorism has not come down at all? Two Army chiefs and two PMs have said that infiltration has come down.

It has come down because of border fencing. In Jodhpur, Army personnel told me that it (infiltration) has come down. But PoK’s a mountainous region and people keep coming in. The Army has made the right arrangements but it should be given full powers. Under international laws, if a country promotes terrorism in another country, the latter has the right to wipe out all terrorist areas.

What is the final solution for India and Pakistan?

There is only one solution, Pak should leave PoK. It is the only solution.

It’s being said that the LoC would be the solution now.

We don’t agree, because it will not end there. It will whet their expansionist hunger; they would want more — the whole of Kashmir.

But there has to be give and take in a compromise?

Give and take, why? They were the ones who attacked.

Like this, there will be a war.

Last time, when there was a bomb explosion, the Army had said let us go and we will destroy the whole area. But at that time, we didn’t have the courage.

Now both countries have nuclear weapons, is there any use of a war?

If it happens, it’ll happen. We can’t keep quiet all the time because of the scare of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear war is not an option.

That’s okay, but what’s the guarantee that they won’t do it even after acquiring nuclear weapons. There’s no guarantee. Pakistan has converted all its money into Euros, so the US has no control over it anymore.

The BJP has been there for 25 years and the RSS for 80 years. There’s a generation gap between the two. Where do you see BJP in the future and where do you see BJP-RSS relations?

The whole Sangh has been told that a new leadership should be allowed to emerge.

The BJP should also have a generational shift?

Yes, there should be a generational shift in BJP also. We asked them, ‘Till when are you going to be there?’

Atalji has been saying again and again that he’s tired and getting old.

Yes, we are also saying it. We are telling them to move aside and bring in new people. We are telling them, as seniors advise the younger generation.

So it’s time for some people to retire in the BJP?

It’s also a matter of age. It (generational shift) should happen. It has happened in RSS. When Balasaheb in RSS got tired, he gave the reins to Rajju Bhaiyya.

When Atalji says, ‘I’m tired, I should retire’, do you agree?

Yes, I’ve been saying it for a while now. When I met him, I told him, get new people and watch them. Keep an eye on them and see the new leadership stand up in front of your eyes. See that they stand properly.

There are a lot of new leaders, from the RSS also, who don’t match the RSS culture — a pen worth Rs 1 lakh, a watch worth Rs 5 lakhs, a car worth Rs 25 lakhs.

Those are not the people who should be brought to the fore. They should bring people who can convey the right values. It’s their job to find these people. It’s their job to find the right people.

If it’s only about age, Advaniji is not much younger than Atalji.

We think both of them should step aside. And after stepping aside, they should watch the new leadership come up. They should keep an eye and see that the new leadership is coming up properly.

Whom do you see coming up in the BJP?

It’s their job to think about it.

The NDA-BJP was in power for six years, it achieved some things. On others — Ram Mandir, Article 370 — it couldn’t make progress. What was the level of communication between the RSS and the BJP in these six years?

They never consulted us. We did not go to them either. But whenever we felt something was wrong, we would speak to them. We told them to be in constant touch with the other Sangh organisations. Everyone understands that there are limitations and they’d have to work within these limitations.

But some people abused them.

That was because there was no dialogue. What could these people have done? So they said what they wanted.

But the language they used.

We told them, you have to control your tongue.

Were you hurt by the kind of language that was used against Vajpayeeji?

Yes, we told them to watch their words. Criticism is okay, but calling names is not.

Do you remember a time in the six years when you had to tell the NDA that it had done something wrong?

I had written a letter to them asking them to meet representatives of the Vidyarthi Parishad, which had a list of 74 demands, and look into their problems. At that time, Murli Manohar Joshi was there. He agreed to some of the demands and for the rest he set up a committee, which would look into the demands and make suggestions.

Did you tell them that you were not satisfied with any of their foreign policies?

Whenever it’s about national interest, we did tell them. For example, when Hindus were being tortured in Bangladesh, we met them and told them that they were not doing anything, and that’s not good, because who else will care for the Hindus.

Did they do anything after you told them?

They heard us, but they didn’t really do anything. When we asked them what they were going to do, they didn’t have an answer.

There were two types of leaders in the BJP government — one from RSS backgrounds, like Advani, Vajpayee, Murli Manohar Joshi, and the other a new lot — Jaswant Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie. Did you feel the performance of people with a non-RSS background was better?

It was good. Sushma Swaraj’s performance was good. Arun Shourie became controversial because of disinvestment. We told him not to disinvest firms that are making profits. Disinvest only those running in losses, we didn’t have a problem with that.

The feeling was that leaders from the RSS were playing the game of the corporate lobby.

No, definitely not, there’s no question of the corporate lobby.

Didn’t your people play the game of the corporate lobby over telecom?

No, telecom is a part of our country.

Pro-Reliance, anti-Reliance, pro-Essar, anti-Essar?

We said that you should not let foreign players come into telecom. You say 50 things over a phone; those 50 things should not get into the wrong hands. That would not be right. It should stay with the government.

What do you see as the future of politics — BJP leaders, leaders with an RSS background or non-RSS background leaders?

All we want is the right people.

Do you want the BJP to widen its reach?

The BJP has to do it. If it has to be in politics, it will have to go to all kinds of people. They’ll have to take new people with them.

And there will have to be a generational shift?

Yes, there will have to be.

You have seen politics for a long time. Who do you think are the greatest leaders of the nation?

When Nehruji came to power, everything he did was not in the nation’s interest. When the three defence chiefs met him and told him their needs for the next 10 years, he said that there is no need for an Army because we will not attack anyone.

Who are the two-three greatest leaders of the nation?

Indira Gandhi, her plus point was that she never gave in to pressure. But she was self-centred. And so whatever she did, she did to keep herself in power.

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