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'It's Modi vs people of India'

Last updated on: July 10, 2018 09:03 IST

'The BJP is saying we have Modi, who have you got?'
'We have the people of India on our side.'

Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi meets with leading businessmen in Mumbai, June 26, 2018. Photograph: Press Information Bureau

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi meets with leading businessmen in Mumbai, June 26, 2018. Photograph: Press Information Bureau

Successive by-poll losses for the Bharatiya Janata Party when faced with a united Opposition has strengthened the belief among non-National Democratic Alliance parties that by sticking together they can hope to dislodge Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi from power at the next general election.

But the non-NDA parties political have not yet located a leader for the prospective grand alliance, who will also be its face for the general election.

Veteran politician and former Union minister Yashwant Sinha feels there is no need for such a face and elected lawmakers can pick their leader "at an appropriate time."

"This is a BJP trap, very cleverly made out by saying that they have Modi, who is the Opposition's face?" Sinha tells Rediff.com's Utkarsh Mishra.

The final segment of a two-part interview.

As a former foreign minister and finance minister, what advice would you give the Centre regarding the current global trade war?
How should India maintain its relations with China and Iran without drawing ire from the United States?

We should tell the United States very clearly that just as they consider their national interest to be sacrosanct, similarly we consider our national interest to be sacrosanct. And we will work in our national interest.

If our national interest dictates that we should keep up the trade relationship with Iran, including the purchase of oil, then the US should understand it.

Similarly with Russia, the US should understand it.

If the US refuses to understand the point of view of a country like India, then it is bad news for the US.

My point is that India should not submit or surrender to the whims and caprices of the US.

There were reports that 'under pressure from the US', India is preparing to cut oil imports from Iran, even reduce it to zero.

That will be a bad day. That will be a very bad day. I will not agree with that policy.

Regarding the jump in deposits by Indians in Swiss banks, the finance minister said all the money can't be black.
He also said by 2019, as per the treaty with Switzerland, India will find out the names of depositers and appropriate action will be taken against wrongdoers.
How satisfactory do you find this explanation?

That has fallen flat on its face.

The latest surge in deposits by Indians in Swiss banks shows that the government's efforts to curb black money, much less bring it back, have failed completely, as has demonetisation.

Did the government actually intend to curb black money or, as Rahul Gandhi says, the note ban was a scam?

The note ban, of course, was a very silly step. I think the purpose was more political than economic.

Black money was not the target, the Opposition parties were the target.

There are many layers of developments after demonetisation that need to be inquired into, for instance the deposit of Rs 745 crore in an Ahmedabad (cooperative) bank.

So any non-BJP government that comes into office will have its tasks cut out to inquire into all these episodes.

Should the Opposition not demand a white paper on the note ban?

You can raise the demand, but you know pretty well that they (the government) will not oblige.

I'm saying there should be a full-scale inquiry into demonetisation by a non-BJP government if it comes into power after 2019 (the general election).

In your opinion, who could be a consensus leader of the Opposition grand alliance?

We are a parliamentary democracy. We don't operate in a presidential system. So it is the duty and responsibility of the elected representatives to choose their leader.

We should await the results of the election, after which if the Opposition parties have a majority, I'm sure the MPs will be able to elect a leader.

This is a BJP trap, very cleverly made out by saying that they have Modi, who is the Opposition's face?

The reply to that is: It is Modi against the people of India.

But the people too need a leader who can take on Modi.

The leader will come at the appropriate time.

Who was the projected face of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh?

Who was the projected face of the BJP in Haryana?

Who was the projected face of the BJP in Maharashtra?

Who was the projected face of the BJP in Jharkhand?

In these states, the BJP did not go to the polls with a decided face, because it didn't suit the BJP to do that.

At the national level, because they had Modi, they are saying we have Modi, who have you got?

We have the people of India on our side.

Your team recently released a statement that the BJP withdrew support to the Mehbooba Mufti government in Kashmir keeping in mind the impending Lok Sabha polls.

There was no development in Jammu and Kashmir which warranted the withdrawal of support by the BJP at this stage.

The BJP did not withdraw support at the height of the post-Burhan Wani unrest in Jammu and Kashmir.

At this point of time, nothing had happened to warrant the withdrawal of support. And therefore, clearly, it was not Jammu and Kashmir which was the reason for withdrawal, it was the consideration of national elections.

Utkarsh Mishra / Rediff.com