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|September 22, 1999||
The Rediff Election Interview/ S Gurumurthy
'I want the PM's position to be a matter of pride for India'
S Gurumurthy, convener of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, is using all platforms to convey that having a 'foreigner' for prime minister is a shame. He uses very strong words to convey his point of view. Though he was extremely busy preparing for his daughter's wedding, he met Shobha Warrier.
Are you against any videshi occupying the seat of the prime minister?
Yes, I am. What was the need of the freedom movement if all that you need was a citizenship certificate? Any Britisher would have become an Indian citizen that way to rule India. The index is not the citizenship. Is there an identity for this country? Only a country without an identity can say that anyone can become prime minister. I don't want to reduce this country to the position of having no identity.
What do you say about a 100-year-old party like the Congress projecting Sonia Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate?
Even the Congress is not saying it is a matter of pride to have Sonia Gandhi. It only says, okay, what is wrong in having her as the prime minister? I want the prime minister's position to be a matter of pride for India. I don't want it to be like, 'okay, what's wrong' kind of position. I don't want the prime minister's position to be given condescendingly. Can anyone say that it is a matter of pride that India will have an Italian-born as prime minister? Never in the history of the world has a foreign-born been elected as prime minister of any country.
They are comparing her with Nivedita and Annie Besant. But they came to serve India. This lady did not come to serve India. She married and became the member of a family. In fact, the moment you wanted to become the prime minister of India, you have shown you want only power.
Let me ask you about what George Fernandes and Pramod Mahajan commented on Sonia. Were they not personal attacks?
Is it not personal to claim vote as the widow of Rajiv Gandhi? Is it not personal to claim votes as the daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi? So you can take personal factors to your advantage but nobody should point out any personal factors against you. If you are claiming vote as the daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi and widow of Rajiv Gandhi, why can't you take a remark that your contribution to the country is giving birth to two more persons who can be prime ministers? What is wrong in that?
All feminists are criticising Fernandes and Mahajan now. But why is it that no feminist is protesting because Sonia is seeking votes as a widow? Tell me, why should she seek votes as a bahu? Does it not affect the pride of a woman in the country that she is only a widow or she is only a bahu and nothing other than that?
What are you more against -- her lack of experience or her place of birth?
It is sufficient for me to protest that she is a foreigner. Do you think I will accept the most intelligent and the most capable foreigner as the prime minister of my country? Then, Bill Gates can be the prime minister of India. I am not saying that Sonia Gandhi is a fool, so I don't want her as the PM. What I am saying is, it is a shame to have a foreigner of whatever type as the prime minister. If she becomes PM, I will say I am not in a free country.
You also said she would be a threat to our national security if she became prime minister. Do you really feel so?
A hundred per cent. I don't think Sonia's heart can be in India. If Rama's heart could not be in Sri Lanka, Sonia's heart cannot be in India. Living in India is different from living for India. Dying in India is different from dying for India.
But the Congress says only the people of India can decide whether she should be the PM or not.
If there had been a referendum on whether the British should rule India or not, I am not sure what way the people would have voted. Do you know the pravachana karthas at that time described the white people as gandharvas? See a country that does not have the aggressive, acquisitive, imperialistic nation-state consciousness that is promoted by the West cannot think narrowly, but the whole Western world which follows the modern aggressive nation-state idea does so.
Our country cannot think small but we have to think small in this matter. Unfortunately, we are a global society and no other society is a global society and you can't be singular global society in the world. By tradition, this country does not have a hatred or dislike or disqualification for foreigners. But that will not work now.
When I talked to the some of the not-so-literate and uneducated people, all of them said they didn't look at her as a foreigner and they didn't have any objection to her becoming the PM of India. As she is married into an Indian family, she belongs to the family, according to them. What do you say about this?
Please understand that those who are arguing for Sonia Gandhi through newspapers and television channels are not illiterate.
No, I was talking about the poor, uneducated people I met at various places.
That is because they trust you. Let me ask you, why do the army rules prohibit an officer from marrying a foreigner? Because there is a nation-state consciousness in all this. Sadly, our people are not used to the nation-state idea of the West. A society, which accepts adhiti devo bhava cannot understand or accept immigration rules. That is why even the two-and-a-half crore [250 million] illegal immigrants from Bangladesh are not a problem in the Indian mind.
You give the nation-state consciousness of the West to the people of India and then see whether they will accept Sonia or not. They will not. But I don't call them illiterate because I know more educated illiterate people than uneducated illiterate people. I really condemn the Marxian-Macaulayan English education, which is the most articulate form of illiteracy.
Why do you say so?
Because it argues against India. The English-educated Indian is supposed to argue with the world for India, but it is the only segment which argues for the world with India.
Recently you attacked a section of the English press for working in favour of Sonia.
The English press in India has no self-confidence because they constitute and represent English-educated Indians. Intellectually, they are the slaves of the West. They can't see any originality in India. Their reference point is the West. Kalidasa is the Shakespeare of India. Jawaharlal Nehru is the Churchill of India and Adisankara is Kant of India... this is how they refer.
When the uneducated masses I talked to supported Sonia, the middle class Indians considered it a shame to have Sonia as prime minister. Why is it so?
But they won't talk. If they talk against Sonia, they think they are being narrow-minded. Broadmindedness is an obsession with the Hindus. You call the Hindus third rate rascals, superstitious and bigots, they will accept but you should not call them narrow-minded for which they are prepared to sell their identity also, sometimes.
All the opinion polls show that Vajpayee has a higher rating than Sonia. At the same time when they were asked whether the reason not to rank Sonia was her place of birth, most of them answered in the negative. What do you say about this?
All that an educated Indian wants is the title 'broad-minded'. They are afraid of stating one of the real reasons for preferring Vajpayee -- that she is a foreigner.
It was reported that some villagers in Bellary said as beti, Sushma Swaraj had no place in her home and as a bahu, Sonia belonged to India, her husband's home.
I am asking a simple question. Had Sonia Gandhi been a Negress, would these people have accepted her? No. The Indians are obsessed with white skin. If I were the prime minister, I will bring in 50,000 shoe-shiners from the West and put them in every bus stand and every railway station. I would give salary to them from the government and ask them to clean the shoes of the Indians so the Indians will know that the whites also will clean shoes. Even this consciousness is not there. He thinks every white-skinned person is a millionaire, he is educated and great. In a country like this, in a situation like this, every political party has to be even more careful.
When the people are not ready to accept the swadeshi-videshi politics, will it not boomerang on the BJP?
Let the BJP be defeated on this issue then. But the issue has to be there. Even the BJP has no backbone to raise the issue in an unalloyed way in public.
But they have been talking about it on all platforms.
Why can't they say that even if Sonia is the most capable person, we don't want a foreigner as the prime minister? They won't say that. They are afraid of the English-speaking press and the English-speaking Indian.
But there are more rural Indian language-speaking Indians in India. Are they not afraid of losing their support?
No. Please understand one thing. The masses follow the leader. Very rarely do the masses revolt in India. If they had revolted, there would have been no order in this country. They rejected communism because they could not accept any revolutionary ideas. I will not use the Western word 'feudal'. It is an orderly society, but it accepts the opinion of an educated person, over a period of time.
Why do you say that politicians are afraid of the English press? But is it not the regional press, which influences the people?
There is only one person in India who completely rejected the English press and she proved to be a good leader. She was Indira Gandhi. I am yet to see a leader who will rise up and say, to hell with you, the English press! Regional press suffers in comparison with the English press. So, whatever the English journals write, it influences the regional journals. Even when you want to differ with them, you have to speak in English. Even if you have to abuse them, you have to abuse them in English. The English press is the opinion-maker and the language press follows.
Now Sonia Gandhi is talking about corruption at the prime ministerial level.
You can always say somebody is corrupt. Charges were made against Jawaharlal Nehru also. These are all election gimmicks. I don't think anybody is going to take it seriously. I don't think anyone is going to believe that Atalji or Advaniji or Fernandes is corrupt.
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