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|October 14, 1999||
The Rediff Election Interview/Ramakrishna Hegde
'Whether we join the Cabinet or not, we will continue to support the NDA government'
Lok Shakti president Ramakrishna Hegde openly blamed long-time friend George Fernandes for playing a trick on him and not recommending his name for inclusion in the Union Council of Ministers.
Hegde's name did not figure in the list of ministers who were administered the oath of office and secrecy by President K R Narayanan yesterday. "I have no complaints with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He is the leader of the National Democratic Alliance and I will continue to support him," said Hegde in an exclusive interview with
Hegde's name did not figure in the list of ministers who were administered the oath of office and secrecy by President K R Narayanan yesterday. "I have no complaints with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He is the leader of the National Democratic Alliance and I will continue to support him," said Hegde in an exclusive interview withOnkar Singh.
But he made no bones about his displeasure with Fernandes for stabbing him in the back. "I guess I have to blame myself for trusting George Fernandes too much," he lamented. Excerpts:
You blame George Fernandes for not including your name in the list of leaders from the Janata Dal (United) to be included in the Union Council of Ministers. But he says the formation of the government is the prerogative of the prime minister and he is not to be blamed. What do you have to say?
That is George Fernandes's view. I have already explained to the media and other friends how George had omitted my name from the list of JD-U leaders who were to be made ministers. Three days before the oath-taking ceremony, George called me up and told me that he and Jaswant Singh would like to come and see me. When I asked why, he said the prime minister had directed Jaswant Singh that both George and Singh should talk to various leaders in the JD-U and ascertain their views. I waited for them, but they never came.
But why did he do it?
Ask him that. Courtesy demanded that he should have at least sounded me on this [ministry formation]. It's not that I came into politics yesterday. I have spent years and years in the political arena. I am elder to George and senior to him in experience. He could have come and explained to me the difficulties he was facing in sending certain names from the JD-U. He could have said that because of certain political constraints more people would have to be taken from Bihar. I would have understood his difficulties and offered to opt out of the list.
You and your supporters seem pretty angry...
Naturally, because decency has no place in politics. He played dirty even last time.
What did he do then?
Don't you know that he threatened to opt out of the Union Cabinet if he was not given the defence portfolio? I could have also done a drama like that. Atalji had himself offered me the defence portfolio. I had not asked for any particular ministry. I was willing to accept the offer. Then George kicked up a row. He openly told the prime minister that if he did not get the defence ministry, he would resign. But I cannot do this kind of theatre. I have never run after posts. The posts run after me.
J H Patel is also unhappy with you. Why?
No, he is not at all unhappy with me.
But he has gone on record to say that Ramakrishna Hegde trapped the Janata Dal in Karnataka.
He may have meant it as a joke. He is unhappy with the BJP, not with me.
Do you also blame the BJP for letting you down?
How can I blame anyone else? George had been entrusted with the task of preparing the list of names of leaders of the JD-U to be included in the Union Cabinet. I feel betrayed because I had put my faith in him. And he did not justify the faith reposed in him. That is why I am angry with him.
Is it true that there is a move to make you deputy chairman of the Planning Commission. If the offer is made, will you accept?
There is no question of accepting such an offer because my friend Panditji is there. K C Pant is doing a good job already. So why should I go there?
Are you planning to retain the identity of the Lok Shakti?
Since the merger with the JD-U has not taken place, Lok Shakti is still there as a party. It was agreed that on the basis of our experience we would decide about the merger after the polls. Now that we have had a bad experience, we will reconsider our decision in Bangalore later this month or early next month. We will have a meeting of the national executive and decide what to do.
Will you continue to support the prime minister?
I have no complaints against Prime Minister Vajpayee. Whether we join the Cabinet or not, we will continue to support the NDA government.
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