While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is bracing itself for a stormy monsoon session of the state assembly with the opposition closing ranks on several issues including the Vyapam scam and Lalitgate, veteran leader and MP Shanta Kumar, 80, shot off a damning letter to the BJP’s national chief Amit Shah demanding a ‘lokpal’ (ombudsman) in the party to tackle corruption cases. Even as a storm ensued and the party disassociated itself from his remarks and advised him to “observe restraint,” the beleaguered octogenarian leader remains defiant. In a telephonic interview with Hindustan Times, he said he stood by his remarks, adding the party often remained annoyed with him for being so outspoken. Excerpts from the interview:
What made you write the letter?
I was pained by the fingers being pointed at the party, that too just a year after it came to power with the same issue (corruption) being the rallying point. I feel it was a serious issue and needed to be discussed. I stand by every word I wrote.
But the party has disassociated itself from your remarks.
I’ve spoken my ‘mann ki baat’ (innermost feelings). I’ve raised an issue and it’s for the party to decide whether to consider my suggestion or not. I’m nobody to dictate to the party or give a decision on any issue.
The timing of the letter is also being questioned.
See, the letter was written on July 10 and delivered at the office of the party president the same day. I also got an acknowledgment from his office that my letter had been received. I had no intention to make it public. However, the staff members who manage my accounts on social media sites posted it on Facebook on Monday without anticipating its fallout. I again say I had no intention to go to the media.
Or was it because you felt alienated and the report by the FCI committee you headed was rejected?
It’s nothing like that. My letter shouldn’t be associated with the FCI committee or its recommendations and report. I wrote what I felt was right. In my six decades in politics I’ve never been dishonest with the party.
But what about corruption in Himachal, both in BJP and Congress rule?
I’ve always spoken against corruption regardless of those involved or the ruling party. When a case of corruption came against Virbhadra Singh I was the first to seek his resignation. Even if it happened during the BJP regime I was the most vocal. Because I dare to speak the truth.