The BJP suspended Kirti Azad for alleging corruption in DDCA. Do you think it was correct?
Kirti is a worthy son of a worthy father. I know the family well. I will not go against the party's decision. But, I am sure Kirti will sail through, truth will prevail and my party will be strengthened.
Should Finance Minister Arun Jaitley step down until his name is cleared from the DDCA scam allegations like LK Advani did until his name was cleared in the Hawala case?
Honesty and transparency must go together although they seldom go together. In the wake of the allegations and the way the corruption issue has been raised, Advani-ji ke rah chale Jaitley (Jailtley should follow Advani's path) and come out clean. The Prime Minister has already said so.
So you are saying Jaitley should step down?
The Finance Minister should fight it politically, not legally. He definitely should come out clean and he has to choose the path. People are raising issues related to corruption. In politics, timing is very important. Like Newton's Third Law which is every action has equal and opposite reaction, untimely action could boomerang.
Do you think CBI raid on Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's principal secretary was correct?
As I said timing in politics and show business is very important. What was the need to raid while parliament was on. The entire media and others were talking about it. Who advised them to do so? The perception now was that it was vendetta politics. Once LK Advani had told me, good administration and good politics seldom go together although they should go hand in hand. The raid could be a good administrative decision but I wish, hope and pray that it is not a bad political decision.
Agar sachch kahna bagawat hai to hum bhi baagi hai (if speaking the truth is rebellion then I am a rebel). I have no demand, no command, no complaint, no expectations. But, if they still want to show me the door, no problem. But I won't leave the party. The BJP is my first love and I will stick to it.
What do you think of Narendra Modi as the prime minister? What difference do you find between NDA-I and NDA-II?
Narendra Modi is a verdict of the majority of the people of the country. After a long time we saw cadres and workers of the Bharatiya Janata Party united and full of zeal. There was enthusiasm to see him as the prime minister. He himself is a dashing, dynamic and action hero prime minister. We all contributed as much as we could, we all did aggressive marketing, including party workers and the RSS. He has credibility, integrity and a tremendous energy level. Of course there are huge expectations from him. But not all things depend on the prime minister. If things have not come up to our expectations, it is we who have failed him, not him.
About the difference between NDA-I and NDA-II, NDA-I had put the entire system on track. When we demitted office we wondered why it happened because everything had been put in place in terms of development, progress, economy, etc. In this government, however, in spite of having the capability, capacity and the will, it reminds me of the Robert Frost line, 'Miles to go before I sleep'. So we have a long way to go despite our best intentions and efforts and the prime minister's leadership.
It is felt that there is a deficit of talent in the current council of ministers. Do you agree?
Many people say so. Some of the ministers are very talented. But, have others been fully tapped? Of course in due course of time, I hope, wish and pray that more talented people will be and can be inducted.
What do you have to say about the atmosphere of intolerance in the country?
I think the issue has been blown out of proportion, a mountain has been made out of a molehill. India is a very tolerant society. We have always believed and practised anekta mei ekta (unity in diversity). There are so many religions but the nation is one. One stray incident cannot be projected as the behaviour of the entire nation. With humble request, I would like to ask those who have returned their awards, how come they did not raise their voice when the 1984 riots happened or the Bhagalpur massacre took place. None of them came forward to talk about intolerance and returned their awards.
I am sure it was a slip in the chain of thought on the part of great and dynamic actor Aamir Khan when he commented on intolerance in the country. Of course, we are tolerant. For instance, I haven't seen the film, PK, but I was told that in that film gods and deities of a particular religion were made fun of. Had we not been tolerant that movie would not have been such a hit. For that matter, the country was not on fire because of the late artist and painter MF Husain's controversial paintings of gods and goddesses. So, I find many things blown out of proportion and sometimes it is election related.
Do you think the BJP is stronger by sidelining the seniors like LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha?
They are the biggest assets. LK Advani is treated as a statesman, acceptable to all and respectable to all; Murli Manohar Joshi is so experienced. Many people still feel that Yashwant Sinha was the best Finance Minister we ever had. Although I will not go against the parliamentary body or the prime minister's decision but I certainly feel sad. I am still in the party and I will certainly abide by the diktats and discipline of the party. But I do feel that had they been there, things would have been much better than today.
Amit Shah is supposed to be a master strategist. How did he go wrong in Bihar?
We have undoubtedly done well in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and we faired pretty well in Kashmir. In Bihar, many factors seem to have played a role in the debacle, including Bahari over Bihar. It was strongly felt that the people of Bihar were sidelined, including Bihari Babu (Shatrughan), while people from Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat who do not know Bihar, its lingo, culture, habits were put on the top. There is no problem if outsiders are brought in, after all India is one. However, firstly those from Bihar who could contribute were sidelined. Secondly there was no anti-incumbency factor against Nitish Kumar unlike in Haryana, Maharashtra, Delhi.
As a committed BJP man I was just trying to show them the mirror with the best of my sincerity and intentions so that they avoid negative politics. We were hit by the DNA remark. Therefore, before coining the jungle raj, they should have realised that many voters had not experienced the so-called jungle raj they were talking about, plus there were those who were supporters of the jungle raj because they had benefitted out of it. In short, the people of Bihar in general were hurt for being called "junglees" and that too during election time! I had been telling them not to talk of jungle raj.
The writing was very much on the wall. I had told them even during the Delhi elections not to do negative politics. I had told them that there might be intellectual differences with Arvind Kejriwal but he is very popular and has a good image among the masses. So don't go for negative politics.
In the Bihar assembly elections I was nowhere. I have been winning with record margins. Over the years they have been ignoring me, slowly they have been removing my name, photo from banners, posters and so on. It hurt the sentiments of lakhs of voters who were in awe of me. Why did the party keep me out, what was my fault? I hardly knew how to use twitter but I started posting my thoughts through twitter for the country, the state and my impeccable image.
Every state has its own characteristics and elections are fought keeping that in mind. If you were to campaign in Bihar, how would you have made it different?
Let's not forget I have been the original star campaigner. This term star campaign was given to me by then party president Yashwant Sinha. When I was in the peak of my career, three helicopters for each of us – Atalji, Advaniji and I – used to wait.
I connect with the people well and it's my impeccable image that goes well with the masses; it is personality in totality. I never quote dialogues from films in my rallies. Once Atal-ji, my godfather, had told me that the day people stop expecting you to give dialogues in public rally you will become a big leader. For the last 15-20 years, I have stopped giving dialogues. What is most important in a campaign is to connect with the people, with humour, style and a bit of glamour.
You are a known crowd puller. Yet, neither were you invited for Amit Shah's rally in Gandhi Maidan in the assembly elections nor did the party include you in any of the election committees. Is the party so afraid of Shotgun?
Jab naash manuj per chhaata hain, Pahle vivek mar jaata hai! (When destruction is inevitable, the conscience of man dies first). I hope this prophecy doesn't come true. I was very sad with their attitude. I had given them the dates also to campaign but there was no communication from the other side. Looking back, I think they had decided hum toh doobe hai sanam tumhe bhi le doobenge (we will sink along with you). It is so very sad that the BJP could not open its account in more than 13 districts, including Shahnawaz Hussain's Bhagalpur constituency where a huge rally was organised. Incidentally, the BJP won five out of the six assembly constituencies in the Patna seat. Some credit should be given to the goodwill I
have maintained in Patna.
I won't say that I would have made a huge difference in the results. However, if I was given a chance to campaign I am sure we would have won a few more seats, if not many more. I was not even included in the core committee. Some people suggested that I should speak to Rajnath Singh. But my point is why should I raise it with a friend like Rajnath for this lollipop. Mera koi pad nahi hai par kad hai (I don't have any position but I have the stature).
During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the party kept you waiting before giving you ticket. The word that went around was the party high command was against you. Is it so?
Some lower level leaders from Bihar had fallen flat on the feet of the party high command not to give me a ticket. It was their last dying desire to keep me away. In our party the rule used to be 'sitting getting and second will get the first preference'. My name was announced at the end, around midnight after Sushma Swaraj intervened, Rajnath Singh called me and, I am grateful to Harsh Vardhan who had kept one seat for me in Delhi until the last minute. I told Rajnath and Harsh Vardhan that Patna has always been my first choice as well as last choice. I told them if they had faith in me I will come back with a new record margin and I did. I won by one lakh margin.
Those against me feel insecure with my popularity and acceptability among the masses. Given a chance I would like to be at the Centre and take care of Bihar from the Centre. There are many insecure leaders who are afraid of me. So I want to know from them: Ab tera kya hoga kaliya?
Post Bihar elections, the party leaders and workers ignored you. In Parliament, you sat aloof; leaders of other parties came and spoke to you but none from your party. Is the relationship so sour? Do you think you have been completely isolated?
Even if it was so it wouldn't bother me. I have always believed in and practised Rabindranath Tagore's Ekla Chalo Re. I will not compromise on my principals, dignity, self-respect. Having said that, many in the opposition also hold me in very high esteem. Just because someone belongs to a different party, doesn't mean he or she becomes an enemy. We can differ on issues but we cannot be enemies. We all belong to the same society. Lalu Prasad Yadav was there from the beginning until the end during my mother's funeral and it was a different time then; he woke up the entire administration. I am so touched by him. Nitish Kumar said so many times that I am like his elder brother and that I am the 'Pride of Bihar'. I can differ on issues, after all it is a democracy.
My only grievance is I was not given protection by my party; the kind of messy situation created by locals. But I wish our president Amit Shah and prime minister Modi had called me once. I tried to reach out to them but in vain. Although I do remain grateful to Modiji; the first marriage he attended after becoming prime minister was my son's wedding.
So was there an ego hassle?
No. Rather I would pity some of them. In fact, I had been telling them from the beginning that the mahagathbandhan is a maha (huge) challenge. Left to me I would never have allowed the over exposure of the prime minister in every kasba, gali and village, although we must also accept and acknowledge that it was because of the prime minister's rallies that the BJP got so many seats.
You have criticised your party and its leaders at various stages of your political career. Yet you are still with the party.
I still feel this party is the best party. I have been brought up in this party but there is no ill feeling when I criticise the party. It is also acknowledged by others that I speak for the betterment of the party. Even if I criticise my party it is with no ill feelings.
What was your contribution as the health minister?
I would not like to boast about myself but I would definitely like to say that if I have not been better than the best and certainly not faired lesser than the best, because I tried to take the ministry forward. I got the Marshall committee set up on spurious drug, plus evening OPD was started by me, getting medicines directly from companies and so on.
Lalu Prasad is said to be doing all the back seat driving in Bihar. Will this work? Will decision on liquor prohibition succeed?
Lalu has become very mature now. This Lalu is different from the Lalu of 15 years back. His joining hands with Nitish Kumar itself is a sign of his maturity. In terms of his behaviour, performance and understanding, he has matured a lot. A lot of people talk about his sons joining politics. What is wrong in it? It is from his quota only, after all he won 80 seats. But whatever he might try ultimately it is the chief minister's writ that will run. If I have understood it correctly, Lalu wants his son's to be groomed under Nitish Kumar. I don't think Lalu would ever backstab Nitish.
The prohibition issue is quite debatable because it is not just about loss of revenue but spurious liquor has had many repercussions like blindness, mushrooming of liquor mafia and all. My only humble suggestion to Nitish Kumar, the hardworking chief minister unlike many other hardly working chief ministers, is that he should have a relook at the whole thing.
Do you think Gajendra Chauhan should have been appointed as FTII chairman? Do you think the government handled the subsequent strike by the students properly?
There is no point digging old controversies but certainly Gajendra Chauhan should have resigned in the larger interest of the institute. I am from that institute and I feel for the students of the institute. I know Gajendra Chauhan, he is a nice man. But what is the point, it is an old issue now.
You have been a member of both houses. What do you think of the way Parliament functions these days?
I don't think I am the right person to comment on this. The parliamentary system has become such that at times it seems might is right. When we were in the opposition, we also created a din on the Sukh Ram controversy and later we brought him under our fold; similarly we did for Shibu Soren. So what is right for Peter should be right for Paul. With what conviction can we afford to say that what they are doing is wrong?
What is your future plan, continue in politics or some other plan?
It's too late now; is umar mei ab khak musalmaan benenge. Ab to sail bhi karenge, safar bhi karenge aur suffer bhi karenge.