Digvijaya Singh speaks: 'Yes I helped Narasimha Rao on Ayodhya'
Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister and Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh has acquired a reputation for speaking out on uncomfortable issues even when the Congress party dithers over them.
He has taken on the Bharatiya Janata Party and other sangh parivar affiliates head on and does not hesitate to take potshots at Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
However, there’s more to Digvijaya Singh. He has an astute political mind and remains a member of the party’s political coordination committee which is drawing up the strategy for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls even though there are reports that he is no longer enjoys Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s confidence.
In an exclusive interview to Anita Katyal, he speaks about his role during former prime minister Narasimha Rao’s regime in the back-channel talks to resolve the Bari Masjid issue and the upcoming elections.
He also blames the BJP for fanning communal passions for electoral gain and has demanded that an anti-communal violence bill be passed and the Representation of People Act be amended so that those chargesheeted for disturbing communal harmony are barred from contesting elections.
A recent book by P V R K Prasad, former media advisor to Narasimha Rao, Wheels Behind the Veil – PMs, CMs and Beyond states that Rao had plans to construct a Ram temple in Ayodhya and that he had involved you involved in this project.
I have not read the book, but I have worked with Mr Prasad. I was also involved…that is correct. Had Rao allotted land to the Ramalaya Trust, things would have been quite different. This is the land which is not disputed and is in government control.
The Ramalaya Trust had the Shankaracharyas of Shrengeri, Kanchi, Dwarka Peeth and Swami Ramnareshacharya of Ramanand Peeth in the trust which would have been recognised as the true representative of sanatan dharma followers rather than the political Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
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Image: Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh
'When has media analysis ever come correct in India?'
What was your role exactly in this scheme?
I was told by Rao to persuade Swami Swaroopanand and Swami Ramnareshacharaya to join the Ramalaya Trust. And I am happy that after Prasad and I requested them, the two agreed to join the Trust. Swaroopanand became the head of the trust and Ramnareshacharya a member of the trust.
Coming to the elections, all reports are predicting that the BJP is more likely to come close to the 200-mark in next year’s polls, especially now that Modi has been declared as its prime ministerial candidate.
When have media analysis ever come correct in India? I admit Modi’s projection has enthused the BJP workers but it has hopelessly divided the party leadership. And it not just L K Advani who is unhappy about his projection... talk to any of the BJP leaders in private and the true picture will emerge.
The Congress is fighting ten years of anti-incumbency... how does your party plan to take on Modi’s aggressive campaign.
As far as we are concerned, we are not in awe of Modi. We will fight the coming election on the basis of our ideology and programmes ...all what the Congress has done since 1947 till now, especially during by the United Progressive Alliance-II government.
We have a parliamentary form of democracy where political parties approach the electorate with their ideas and programmes. We are going to propagate our programmes, particularly the various laws which we have enacted to empower the people, especially those from the weaker sections.
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'UP government has been doing match-fixing with BJP'
There is also a perception that the campaign about the newly-enacted food and land laws is not resonating with the people as the UPA government’s credibility has hit rock-bottom.
It’s a question of how you approach the people with these programmes. If our ideas are not being accepted by the people how did we win the recent Karnataka Lok Sabha by-elections, defeating Janata Dal-Secular leader Kumaraswamy’s wife in their stronghold. The view in Delhi is quite different from what it is in the states.
Times have changed... the media only goes to the states when there are elections....why don’t you go there when there are no elections. What we get these days is election tourism. The situation is not as dismal for the Congress as it is being made out by the media. It depends on how we campaign and are able to put across our issues.
The recent Muzaffarnagar riots are being seen as the handiwork of an understanding between the BJP and the ruling Samajwadi Party with the specific objective of polarising the electorate in Uttar Pradesh before the next elections.
It is unfortunate that the present state government in Uttar Pradesh, which was elected on the promise of secularism has been totally ineffective in handling the situation. In fact, it has been doing match-fixing with the BJP, we saw this first in Ayodhya and then in Muzaffarnagar.
How is it that an arrested person is allowed to address a press conference and given an opportunity to disturb communal harmony?
It is a fact that the UP government neglected to take timely action in Muzaffarnagar. A sting operation done by a television channel shows the role and attitude of a state minister. That he allowed the rioting to continue is quite disturbing. The judicial commission set up by the UP government must look into all these issues.
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'Next election is still eight to nine months away. Politics changes overnight'
You have also blamed the BJP… what role has it played in polarising the voters in UP?
The BJP uses the strategy of inflaming communal passions through distribution of pamphlets, planting wrong stories in the media. Now it has started using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and You Tube through which they spread their ideas of hate and communal violence. We have to be extremely vigilant so that fundamentalists from all sections are not allowed to disturb communal harmony.
I believe the Centre should enact a strong anti-communal violence law having stringent provisions for action against those propagating the idea of hate through speeches and pamphlets.
In fact, amendments should also be made in the Representation of People Act so that anybody charge-sheeted for disturbing communal harmony should be barred from contesting elections.
There is also a perception that regional parties will gain in strength and play a key role in the formation of the next government.
I think it’s too early to make any prediction. The next election is still eight to nine months away. Politics changes overnight. For instance, the Mumbai terror attacks took place two days before the last Madhya Pradesh assembly elections. It’s also early to say if the regional parties will improve their tally. It depends on how situation develops... things would be different if the BJP and Nitish Kumar were together or the Janata Dal-United and the BJP have an understanding.
But you cannot deny the presence of regional parties and their growing role in national politics.
Regional parties have brought instability at the national level. Regional parties have regional agendas as a result of which national issues get lost. I admit that regional parties help focus on regional issues but the problem is when these issues overshadow national issues. That’s a real loss.
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