The Rediff Interview /H Hanumanthappa
'Narayanan should be made President'
When senior Congress leader H Hanumanthappa resigned last week as secretary-general of the SC/ST Forum of Parliamentarians, tongues started wagging. "It is Congress president
Sitaram Kesri's doing," the political grapevine asserted.
But Hanumanthappa, who is also the Congress Parliamentary Party secretary, doesn't think so. Or if he does, he isn't telling. He spoke to Tara Shankar Sahay to put 'things in the correct perspective.' Excerpts from the conversation:
Can you outline the reasons for your resignation?
I am the person who moved a resolution in 1992 reminding the country it was Mahatma Gandhi's wish that a person belonging to the scheduled caste should occupy the President's post. Ram Vilas (Paswan) supported it and negotiations
continued. Our campaign was partially successful and
one from among our lot, K R Narayanan, became the vice-president in 1992.
Just as Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma became President from vice-president,
it was thought that Narayanan too would move to Rashtrapati Bhavan.
But that was not to be. G Venkataswamy brought in a resolution demanding to 'qualify'
the presidential candidate. He said besides belonging
to the SC/ST , he should be a political sufferer and a
freedom fighter. I did not agree. Venkataswamy says the resolution
was drafted by me. This is not correct. A readymade resolution
was given to me, I corrected something in it. I wanted to remove
this condition but Venkataswamy did not agree. He
remained adamant. Finally, when I saw that Venkataswamy was not
ready to remove this condition, I resigned from the secretary-general's
I still hold the precedent of the vice-president
becoming the President should be continued and Narayanan should move to Rashtrapati Bhavan.
So what do you think impelled Venkataswamy
to lay down this condition of the presidential candidate also
being a political sufferer?
That question should be best directed to him.
This condition is hindering Narayanan's
movement towards Rashtrapati Bhavan. Would you say it is politically motivated?
What do you want me to say? I have already resigned.
What is your assessment about the feelings
of the other Forum members regarding the condition?
I would say 99 per cent of them feel it is unjustified, that the
precedent should be upheld and Narayanan should be made President.
So there are some who disagree with you.
I don't know whether they disagree with me, but a
few in the Forum are being influenced by Venkataswamy.
Isn't 'political sufferer' a new term in the
As far as I am concerned, political sufferer is a
term used by bureaucrats while considering pension and other things.
Is the condition interjected by Venkataswamy in any way linked
to Sitaram Kesri's reported desire to be President?
I am the wrong person to ask. You should ask him.
But isn't it a fact that Venkataswamy is acting on Kesri's behest?
The interpretation is wholly yours, not mine.
Let's talk about your party. What's happening
in the Congress organisational elections?
The Congress is a movement by itself, it is a mass-based
party. What you are seeing now (the organisation poll fever) is
a natural thing. It happens in every party.
What about the allegations of Congress dissidents
that Kesri is stopping at nothing to retain the party president's
These are allegations. The facts are different.
But tell me, is it unnatural for anybody to try and retain the position
he is holding? It is natural.
What do you say to Dr Jagannath Mishra's charge
that Kesri is trying to pack his men among the Pradesh Congress Committee delegates who will eventually elect the party president?
How can the Congress president do such a thing sitting
here in Delhi? What Dr Mishra is alleging is the spillover of Bihar politics
here at the Centre. Somehow or the other, Bihar is always in the
news. Bihar is an exception, it cannot be widened to the whole
What do you think about many Congress leaders's request to Sonia Gandhi to take over the Congress leadership?
Basically, it signifies the partymen's love and affection
for the Nehru family. I don't have to repeat what happened to
Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. You know the
facts well. Barring Sanjay who died in a plane crash, Indira Gandhi
and Rajiv sacrificed their lives for the country. So when the
partymen want Sonia as the leader; they see the Nehru family in
her. The people's attachment to the Nehru family continues
even at the grassroots level.
Do you think Sonia Gandhi is capable of holding the post?
Right now, it is not on the agenda.
But isn't the demand for her taking over increasing day by day?
There are certain provisions in our party constitution
and, if need be, they would not come in the way. But again,
right now Sonia is a Congress member and the partymen are happy
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