RK Singh, the former home secretary and now BJP’s star campaigner in Bihar — and the party’s likely candidate from Ara — has taken fresh aim at home minister Sushilkumar Shinde in a telephonic interview to HT from Patna.
Singh had accused Shinde of asking former Delhi police chief Neeraj Kumar not to interrogate a Mumbai businessman allegedly close to gangster Dawood Ibrahim, and also alleged that Shinde’s office used to send chits to Kumar recommending postings for Delhi police officers.
In this interview recorded last week, Singh accused Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar of compromising on national security. Excerpts:
How have your first days in politics been?
Interesting. Different and similar. In the last job, one was dealing with one department. Meetings were to the point. Now, I meet a lot more people, speak to them on a large number of subjects.
Is it ethically correct for a top-ranking official like you, who was privy to many state secrets in office, to join a political party right after retirement?
There are active politicians heading the department as a minister. They have the final say. You don’t have a problem with that. How can you have an objection to somebody joining politics after retirement? After you retire, the only thing binding on you is the Official Secrets Act. It remains binding lifelong, whether you join politics or not.
I did not join the private sector. Politics means working with the government. The type of role differs, but it is the same environment. So, we don’t need a cooling off period.
You had an offer to join Nitish after retirement. Why did you join the BJP?
I had accepted the offer to join as adviser the rank of cabinet minister in Nitish Kumar’s government. But my friends unanimously advised me not to join. I had worked with this [Bihar] government earlier and had good memories. But my friends said he [Nitish] has changed.
BJP was in touch with me. I joined mainly because of the ideology. I am a hardliner where national interest is concerned. I don’t like any party compromising in matters of national interest and BJP is the only party which doesn’t. Second: Think of any party which does not belong to a person or a family. It is the BJP. Also, BJP is a national party, JD(U) is not.
Did Narendra Modi’s being in BJP have anything to do with your decision?
I spoke to my colleagues in the Gujarat cadre. They said he is totally upright, and ensures his ministers are not corrupt. He believes only in work and delivery.
Do you think Nitish Kumar compromised national security?
I know two things. One: Operations against Naxalites. In spite of the home ministry repeatedly telling the state government, the state police just didn’t participate. Two: Indian Mujahideen has set up terror modules here. Police from other states have come and picked up terrorists, but the state government did nothing. Now we have info that some ministers in the [Nitish] government have links with ISI operatives.
You have accused home minister Sushilkumar Shinde of corruption. Why didn’t you speak up when you were the home secretary?
Somebody’s corruption is not an official secret. The differences arose because I took a stand. I did not call a press conference then, but I was right in not holding one.
I got to know about it when I had asked the police commissioner why was the fellow [Shinde] adamant that he be removed. All this was happening between the police commissioner and him [Shinde] and I got to know about it only later. I briefed the principal secretary to the Prime Minister. I thought that was sufficient.
Are you fighting elections from Ara? Why have you chosen a constituency with Rajput and Bhumihar votes?
The party suggested Ara because it did not have a candidate from there, not because of caste factors. I am from Supaul. Ara is my wife’s hometown. My son-in-law and brother-in-law also hail from here.
It is alleged that BJP and RSS are systemically polarising not just UP but also Bihar. Recent IB reports point to tension in Gaya, Nawada, Bettiah and other places. Is it BJP’s strategy to polarise?
When I went around Ara, every community, including Muslims came forward. There is no polarisation, there is a wave. People want a strong, clean, and development-oriented government and are fed up of the Congress.