Expelled from the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) last week, Jaswant Singh says he is relishing being unattached.
A day after his former colleague and friend Arun Shourie called for the takeover of BJP by its parent body Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), Singh said 'with its narrow vision', the RSS cannot rescue the BJP.
In an interview with Varghese K George, Singh spoke about the crisis in his erstwhile party and his own future plans. Excerpts.
With you out of the party and senior leaders such as Arun Shourie openly attacking the leadership, do you think the BJP is headed for a split?
I am unconcerned. But I think the party is certainly imploding. It’s a classic case of a political party imploding; a party that has lost its moor, because of the inherent contradictions it has collected around itself.
Winning elections is the litmus test for any political party. Elections are fought and won around a held belief. When these beliefs are themselves nebulous, controversial and questioned, what do you do? Such ideas can be articulated only by individuals. If individual members are concentrating on knifing each other, what do you do? There is implosion happening at various levels; individual, conceptual, organisational and electoral.
BJP leader Arun Shourie has said that the RSS should take over the party. Do you agree?
That's his view. Personally, I don't think RSS is capable of doing it. He is a friend, but have difficulty in going along with him on this issue. The RSS was required to accept the Indian constitution, before Sardar Patel lifted the ban on it. We cannot negate history.
<b1>RSS says, 'We are not a political party'. I have told them, in that case, you concentrate on the social part. They do some good work. The Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad that focus on the welfare of forest-dwellers, relief activities during disasters, etc are good things. But their limitedness of thinking, narrow vision -- to consider that India is only one faith and nothing else...I cannot accept it. India is not that. The centrality of India has to be federal; the RSS is for centralisation. RSS is exclusive; we need to be inclusive.
Have you reflected on future plans?
I am unattached, independent. I am relishing it. I have lived within the straitjacket of discipline for so long, since the day I joined the military academy. I don't want to attach to another political party.
Any overtures from any party?
No overtures yet.
You are friends with Sharad Pawar? Did he call? Will you join NCP?
He did call. Many friends called, expressed concern. That's a courtesy. Nothing more than that.
Your are not joining any party.
What are you going to do then?
I am a Member of Parliament from Darjeeling. A delegation of people from the constituency came and reaffirmed their faith. The only constituency in the country surrounded by four international borders. It coincides with four international boundaries. There is a lot to be done there.
As a BJP member, you were elected as the chairman of Parliament's Public Accounts Committee. Will you resign from that post?
The rules will take care of it. According to the rules, I shall continue. Where does the question arise? Please tell me why should I resign. I am expelled only from the party not from Parliament. Only the Speaker can remove me if I am not doing the job or I am medically unfit or mentally unsound. I don't think I am mentally unsound.
Is anyone from BJP in touch with you?
Some existing members of BJP are in touch. I can't take names. A sense of fear exists in the party.
Will BJP split?
It's in the realm of possibilities. The situation is pregnant with possibilities. The old cliché is that a week is a long time in politics. But in the case of BJP, even six hours appear to be a long time. Look at what happened between yesterday and today. Anything can happen.
Some say the degeneration of BJP is because it detached itself from RSS. Some say the degeneration is because of its failure to detach itself from the RSS. What is your take?
The real problem is not that. There has to be a central core of ideals that the party should be standing for. Don't put it on the RSS. Look inside to see what your difficulties are. What has created the rot is the lure of office. In Kerala, where the party has no power, there is no problem. The lure of the office inebriated BJP. Corruption- in terms money and spirit - began long before.
When did this degeneration of BJP begin?
The rot began to set in before 2004, particularly at the state level. As soon as we lost the 2004 elections, it unsettled and unbalanced the party. The authority of the central leadership eroded. The state parties and governments do not care what the central leadership says. From there it has been a free fall.
Was the exit of A B Vajpayee the watershed?
It began before that. Ataljee did not realise it. We were concentrating on frequent national elections. By 2004, when we were losing, we did not realise what was coming.
How tenable is it to pursue one's academic interest while being an active politician? Is it best avoided?
If you tell someone not to write, you are telling him don't read. There was a phase in the RSS when they discouraged reading newspapers. Your mind would be corrupted if you read newspapers. It was subtle control of mind, subtle fascism.
Had you shown the draft of the book to L K Advani? What did he say?
Before the book was launched, I had given copies to him. I had publicly announced; in fact, at the dais where Advaniji's autobiography was being launched. I discussed it four or five times with him and also with Rajnath. He (Rajnath Singh) said let the state assembly elections be over before you launch it. Then he said let the Lok Sabha elections be over.