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March 21, 1998


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The Rediff Interview/Subramanian Swamy

'Swadeshi is a totally outdated concept. As outdated as Marxism is'

Subramanian Swamy Subramanian Swamy is back at what he does best. Make the mighty quaver. The Janata Party MP from Madurai held up the swearing-in of the BJP government by four days this week when his political ally, Jayalalitha refused to send in her letter of support to the President till she was assured that Swamy would be sworn in as finance minister. It took the best efforts of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Jaswant Singh to persuade her to back off from her demand, but not before Swamy had made his point. That one MP, if he is smart and politically astute, can stand up to the might of any government. Particularly if that government is as precariously perched as the BJP is.

Swamy spoke to Pritish Nandy about his views on the Vajpayee government, and the BJP's policies.

Why do you think the BJP has so much animus towards you?

I don't think it is the BJP, really. The BJP is only a front organisation. It is not a political party. It is really the RSS, and your question should be actually: Why is the RSS against me? Frankly, it's not surprising. We have been at daggers drawn ever since the members of theerstwhile Jan Singh flouted the oath they took in Rajghat in March 1977 that they would never leave the Janata Party -- and then, promptly, left the Janata Party and went on to form the Bharatiya Janata Party!

I did not follow them like cattle.This angered them. They have this culture that anyone who parts company with them must be driven out of public life. In fact, before they left they told me directly that they would do to me what they had done to Balraj Madhok, Manoharlal Sondhi, Pitambar Das and others -- they gave me a list of some seven names of people who were at the height of their power with them and were destroyed and driven out of public life. Well, they have been at it for the last 18 years and suddenly I cannot expect them to swallow all that and accept failure. And not only accept failure but also accommodate me as a Cabinet minister in their own government!

Why did Jayalalitha back off eventually? Chicken?

J Jayalalitha with L K Advani She tried her very best and ultimately what would have happened is that there would have been no government. The BJP had gone to that extent to ensure that I did not enter their Cabinet. They would have preferred not to have a government at all than to have me foisted upon them.

I thank her because she stood up for me. She stood up for me more than any other politician had ever stood up for me in my entire political career. A time had come when other allies were getting restive. Just for Subramanian Swamy's post, how can you hold up everything? That was their complaint. A little longer and some of them could have backed off. I think she did the right thing eventually and she had my full support in doing it.

It is reported that Hegde and Jaswant Singh hold you responsible for creating the mischievous impression that Jayalalitha was treated badly during her visit to Delhi and misled into believing that the BJP was hostile to her. Is this true?

Jaswant Singh Jayalalitha cannot be misled about anything. She is one of the most well informed persons today in Indian politics. Large numbers of people inform her on every issue and she crosschecks every bit of information. So it is impossible for Subramanian Swamy alone to mislead her.

Will you lend your unstinting support to the new government after all that has happened?

I have committed during the election to install a BJP government. So I have no choice. As far as the vote of confidence is concerned, I will vote for the BJP government because Jayalalitha has made up her mind that the Anna DMK front will participate in the formation of a BJP government. So I am bound by the discipline of that commitment.

That's all? You are bound by the discipline of your commitment to only see the BJP pass the vote of confidence? After that?

Well, we have some other demands which have been given in writing. After the confidence vote, if the BJP wins it, they will have to implement these demands. If they do it, I will have no problem, Pritish. And I am sure that the Anna DMK front will have no problem either. The problems will arise if they try to ignore the issues relating to Tamil Nadu. After all, essentially, the BJP is nothing more than a north Indian party. Its mentality is also north Indian. They are quite capable of backtracking on the issues relating to Tamil Nadu if it suits them. But I will not allow that.

Do you think the BJP's economic policy makes sense? Would you have accepted it as the finance minister?

The national agenda will build in enough compromises. That you can be sure of. But this much I would say: Socialism has failed all over the world. In the eighties, I would hear every day that there is no inflation in the Soviet Union, there is no poverty in the Soviet Union, there is no unemployment in the Soviet Union. And now we find that, due to Socialism, there is no Soviet Union!

Subramanian Swamy We have to recognise the fact that we now have to be part of the global competitive system. We can fight for fair competition. That there should be a level playing field. Foreign investors get loans and capital funds at two and three per cent interest rate and it is unfair to expect our industries to compete against them with 18 per cent interest rate. Or that if they want their foreign capital to come freely to India, they should allow our labour to go freely to their countries. Those things we should fight for. But, essentially, we should be ready to be a competitive economy. We should learn to fight globally and we must be part of the global league. If we are not part of the global league, we will be sunk.

Do you agree with George Fernandes, another BJP ally like you, that MNCs in non-core areas should be kicked out?

I don't know what he says and what he means. First, he says, they should be kicked out. Then he says they can't be kicked out. The laws are such. But if the proposition is that the multinational companies which have come here should be kicked out, I say that is impossible. Because we have committed to the World Trade Organisation and almost 150 countries have signed that. It is not like the old GATT agreement. The new GATT agreement has a lot of teeth and if we don't abide by the rules of GATT we will be isolated and reduced to the status of Burma. We can't afford that.

Do you think swadeshi -- as the BJP articulates the idea -- is workable in that context?

I don't know how they will define swadeshi. You see, if swadeshi means you must rely on your own resources, that is no problem. But you have to be in the business of export, import. If you talk about swadeshi, what happens to those 500,000 Indians in the United States? Should they be living in America and sending money to their relatives? What about the Indians in the Middle East? What about our own companies in various parts of the world? After all, we have fledgling multinational corporations of our own. Are we going to shut down all that?

If by swadeshi you mean that we will use only what we produce in India, it is a totally outdated concept. As outdated as Marxism is.

What do you honestly think of the BJP's economic policy?

It is completely outdated. The BJP itself has given it up and is talking of the national agenda. The BJP has no clue about how economics works. The people who draft their policy have no idea about economics at all.

Why is your personal relationship with Vajpayee so bitter?

It has now improved. From reverse gear it has become neutral.

It is wrong to say that Vajpayee is bitterly against me. It is the RSS which is most bitterly against me. They want to finish me off. They don't realise that I am indestructible.

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