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|August 2, 2001||
The Rediff Interview/ Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Nirupam
When the Shiv Sena's 36-year-old Rajya Sabha MP, Sanjay Nirupam, told a shocked Parliament that some officials in Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's office had arm-twisted former Unit Trust of India chairman Pavagada S Subramanyam into advancing money to certain companies, all hell broke loose.
The UTI scam has devastated millions of middle class families, who invested their life's savings in the State-owned mutual fund.
Nirupam's tirade stunned the prime minister, especially since the Sena is part of the National Democratic Alliance. An unhappy Vajpayee announced he wanted to resign; it took the combined persuasive powers of his senior colleagues to make him change his mind.
After a stormy session in Parliament, Nirupam sat down for a candid interview with rediff.com's Ramesh Menon.
Did you have Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray's permission to attack the government?
Balasaheb has already said what I had said in Parliament was my personal view.
Your party is a part of the NDA government. Why did you suddenly decide to take on the prime minister?
I did not do it suddenly. I have always spoken in Parliament whenever a wrong decision is being taken or on issues that affect the people. When public sector units were not being valued properly during the divestment process, I spoke about it. I have spoken on the (Kashmir) ceasefire, Indo-Pak issues and so many other subjects.
My intention is not to criticise the government, but to appraise it. My statements should be taken constructively. I am not after the government but, as a member of the NDA, I have the right to warn the government.
The government is not more important than the people. The people have voted for us and, if something is going against them, someone has to stand up and become the voice that reflects the feelings of the people.
There are 20 million investors, each of whom will have a family of around five members. The UTI scam is, therefore, the tragedy of 100 million people who belong to the middle class, struggle from day to day and are down-to-earth.
Were you investigating this case for a long time?
No. When the UTI scam was scheduled for a debate, I got some information from sources in Bombay. I started tracing the numbers I had got and found one of them belonged to the PMO. I felt this should be investigated. All I want to know is whether the conversation had anything to do with the Cyberspace deal.
Probity is a basic pillar of democracy. We, in the NDA, have said we are committed to providing transparent governance. That's all I'm asking for.
Who do you suspect?
The matter is yet to be investigated. The number belongs to a gentleman who is now a member of the Planning Commission. Earlier, he was an officer in the PMO. I do not know what conversation took place between those two people. I do not know if the conversation had anything to do with the deal. But it must be investigated. If it is found the conversation had nothing to do with the Cyberspace deal, I am ready to apologise. But, without an investigation, you cannot ask me to go back on what I said.
Did you imagine that Vajpayee would threaten to resign?
Never. I have not made any personal allegation against him. I was talking of someone who worked in his office. It was an allegation; it should have been investigated and he should have proved me wrong.
Does it look like emotional blackmail to you -- this whole business of threatening to resign?
He is an emotional person. He is a poet. He is very sentimental. This was an emotional decision. But it is not right. He should be tough. He should be hard. He is the leader of the nation. He is leading the government. He should deal with such issues practically, not emotionally.
You are executive editor of Dopahar Samna, the Shiv Sena daily evening newspaper. Why is it that none of your allegations have appeared in your newspaper?
That is our policy. Whatever I say in Parliament does not appear in Samna. It is the tradition of our paper. Otherwise, readers will accuse me of using the paper for publicity.
Your statement has resulted in a political crisis.
There is no crisis. It is basically a self-made crisis and can be resolved within minutes.
The prime minister has now said the matter will be investigated. That is what we want.
Will there be any trouble in the NDA now?
We have to accept that, if something is wrong, everyone has the right to speak about it. This is what transparency is all about. You can't expect your brother to stop talking against you if you are wrong. The NDA comprises of many parties from different states. They have different philosophies and different views.
We are a democratic nation. At the same time, I understand discipline and coherence. I do not want to use the word fascism, but you cannot pressurise people into keeping mum when something has gone drastically wrong. If not the doors, at least the windows should be kept open for some fresh air and discussion. What is wrong with it? I am not saying we should have differences on every issue. But, on crucial issues that involve common people, we must have the freedom to talk.
Congress spokesman, Jaipal Reddy, who does not see eye to eye with you, has applauded your performance.
All I can say is thank you. They should have analysed their performance. Unlike the Shiv Sena, they are not able to speak up and fight vehemently for the people. We are taking the risk despite being within the government.
Why did the Sena boycott the NDA meeting?
I do not know. It was a decision our leader took.
Are you a politician or journalist?
I am basically a journalist. Nobody can kill that part of me. It is this profession that has given me an investigative approach. I am not an expert on UTI. But, when I had to speak about it, I started studying the matter. Journalism has taught me to study an issue first.
You also raised the recent stock market scam in Parliament. Did you make enemies after that?
Yes, there were so many enemies. What was more important was the appreciation I got from those who did not have any vested interests.
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