During his ten-year political sanyaas in the wake of a resounding defeat in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections in 2003, Digvijaya Singh has practiced politics through different means.
He has positioned himself as the biggest champion of minority rights, secular/liberal ethos, and is counted among the few who get to advice the Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi. In an interview toA. M. Jigeesh and Poornima Joshi, Singh talks about Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal and why the Congress should not be written off just yet. Excerpts from the interview:
Why does the Congress appear non-serious about winning this election? Your leadership is busy conducting novel experiments when the principal opposition party has anointed its most formidable campaigner as prime ministerial candidate.
I will advise you not to make the same mistake the media made in 2004 and yet again in 2009. Do not dismiss the Congress just yet. The dominant political discourse has been manipulated in favour of the BJP by corporate sponsorship and support.
Are you saying that Narendra Modi owes his popularity to big business?
Of course. Narendra Modi is an agent of the corporates. They are pumping money into his campaign. Let me tell you something: Modi spends 20 times more money on his rallies than Sonia Gandhi. This is corporate sponsorship of a political campaign.
How else would you explain the hype that he has been able to create around the Gujarat model of development when we know that malnourishment and poverty levels have increased. It is a State where over 30 police officers are facing serious criminal charges of murder, fake encounters, conspiracy.
One of Modi’s Cabinet Ministers is in jail for murder. Another is on bail and he gets to conduct an election campaign in Uttar Pradesh!
And we all talk about it normally — as if Gujarat is a dream destination. What else would you call this manufactured consent if not the work of an extraordinary public relations exercise conducted at the behest of their masters by the corporate media?
So you share the Prime Minister’s view on Modi being a ‘disaster’ as PM?
Modi is a shining example of an ideology that promotes hatred, violence and the worst kind of majoritarianism in the name of Hinduism. The BJP is the political wing of the RSS that has promoted terrorism in this country. Their communalism is fodder for the Jihadis. They feed on each other. Modi will do to India what Zia-ul-Haq did to Pakistan.
They have already promoted a conservative, regressive public discourse which reflects through events such as banning of a book on Hindus (reference to Penguin India withdrawing The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger). It is quite a good book, actually.
But what is the Congress doing to stop it? Your party seems to be experimenting with structural changes when you yourself are admitting that secular forces should unite.
The Congress is in the process of a structural, generational change. We are at the cusp of history where change is the need of the hour. The Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi is responding to it by deepening democracy within the party structure.
It started with the NSUI and the Youth Congress, and is now penetrating the parent party. But that does not mean we are not preparing for elections. Our alliance with the NCP is almost finalised. We will be tying up with the RJD and Ram Vilas Paswan in Bihar. I wish Mayawatiji had a more favourable opinion about a tie-up but for the moment, we have a partner in U.P. in RLD. There’s a problem in Tamil Nadu, but our leaders are trying to sort it out. In Andhra Pradesh, we are talking to the TRS. So, you see, we are slowly working our way towards the elections.
What about the Left? Have you given up on that front altogether?
I have always thought of the Left as a very responsible and dependable alliance partner. Their secular credentials are impeccable. But I am not sure about alliance. You should ask A K Antony. He is handling matters concerning alliances.
The perception is quite different. Arvind Kejriwal and AAP seem to be more popular than the Congress.
Let us not get carried away by Kejriwal. I understand he is in the business of doing politics, but to tinker with the Constitution and democratic structures is a very serious issue.
What do you mean?
I mean that Constitutionally, public order, law, land and the police in Delhi are under the Centre. Does he have the mandate to amend the Constitution? There is a Home Ministry order that dates back to the time that L K Advani was presiding over that Ministry.
It says that all Bills presented to the Delhi Assembly will be cleared by the Government of India. Personally, I feel this order is not justified. But there is a procedure and if I do not have the mandate to change it, then I should not try. This is especially true if you hold a Constitutional post.
The same is true for the Jan Lokpal Bill. The point that I am trying to make is that everybody has the right to make a political argument. But a person holding a Constitutional post should exhibit some level of responsibility and respect for his position.