'It's perverse to use caste in Justice Dinakaran issue'

The Inquirer

In an exclusive interview to Bharti Nath of Deccan Herald, Shourie was, to begin with, a bit defensive about fielding questions about his party, but did answer some of them nonetheless. Excerpts:

Arun ShourieYou have strong views on subjects. In politics, silence is said to be golden. Do you feel you are a misfit in politics?

Not really… one of great attractions of working with Vajpayee was that he has always allowed us to have our own views.

Has it changed over the years after Vajpayee?

You see, I would not like to comment on that.

What do you think of the controversy relating to Justice Dinakaran? Is he being victimised on caste lines as Buta Singh has alleged?

This is perverse use of caste. Justice Dinakaran is the chief justice of a high court. People like Fali Nariman and Shanti Bhushan have spent their life cherishing, protecting the institution (Supreme Court). They would never make irresponsible statements. Whatever is going on should be disclosed in public.

It’s not a private matter between India’s CJ and Karnataka CJ. It’s an issue that affects the most vital public institution, ie, the judiciary. Today, our legislatures are not in a good shape, civil service is not in a good shape, media is not in a good shape. The last institution left is the judiciary. How does caste come into it, religion come into it?

Chinese incursions continue unabated in Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Do you think the government is doing enough?

Incursions are a very small manifestation of China’s general policy towards India. It has stopped us from getting loans from ADB (Asian Development Bank). It holds a particular view about its position in the world that it will be a pre-eminent power. And it has a definite view about India that it is ‘a potential nuisance.’

India should be kept busy in South Asia; that’s why China is militarising Pakistan. It is making Tibet a fully militarised and nuclearised zone. China’s military pact with Bangladesh and now its involvement with Sri Lanka… These are to keep India busy here. It’s all part of China’s India policy. I don’t know why we don’t see that. About these incursions the Army chief says that they were not more than last year. So how many incursions happened last year? Many. But what are we doing about it? Nothing. Secondly, all these service chiefs are saying that we are not armed enough. We’ve not bought guns since 1986-87. We are short of planes. Incursions are small part of the whole thing.

Should Jaswant Singh resign from the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee?

Certainly not… actually it’s back to BJP business… (Hesitates a bit, then continues) he has been duly elected. These parliamentary committees are not fiefdoms of political parties. These can’t be distributed among political parties. The criterion should be the competence of the person, so that he/she contributes to the assessment of the policy in question. It should not be based on the membership of political parties. Otherwise these are being distributed as political lollipops.

Why are we unearthing graves and trying to rewrite epitaph? Jinnah, Kandahar, Pokhran… the controversies seem endless.

On Pokhran: These are not just issues of the past; these are issues of the future. The future is whether India should sign CTBT, NPT, fissile material cut off treaty (FMCT). Scientists like P K Iyengar, Santhanam, Gopala Krishnan have been associated with the atomic weapons programme. If they say it’s not adequate, it’s not a reflection on NDA or UPA, it is a warning to the country to wake up. Do not let the government sign the NPT, CTBT or FMCT under American pressure. It is not a reflection on an individual scientist. These are very complicated technologies that have to be tested repeatedly.
Similarly, Jaswant Singh’s book is not on India-Pakistan’s past. It’s about the future. Jinnah is just a prism through which he chose to look at the future.

On Kandahar: The issue is not of individuals. The issue was, should we have negotiated with the terrorist or not? That’s an issue for tomorrow also. Similarly, did the crisis management group function or not? How was the plane allowed to take off from Amritsar? These are issue of today. Have we put a security mechanism in place? In India, unfortunately, everything gets personalised... After a very long time, we have a home minister in Chidambaram who’s attending to systems that are required.

BJP expelled Jaswant Singh for his book but it has not taken any action against you, despite your choicest terminologies...

Don’t ask this. Please don’t provoke them (BJP leaders).

On what basis should a leader be elected, not just in BJP, but in any party?

The first criterion should be integrity because India is run on a moral compass. Second is competence, we underrate competence. One of the presumed advantages of Manmohan Singh is that he knows economics. Third, a person, who’ll always move us to the future, make the country look to the future. This is a quality which Pandit Nehru had. In a small way, Rajiv Gandhi made a contribution by bringing in the computers — which many people at that time scoffed at. Vajpayee and Narasimha Rao, both these leaders made India to look at the future. The leader must tell complete truth to the people. People will understand. That will instill trust in the leader also.

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