Capital Buzz

The Rediff Interview


The Rediff Poll


Crystal Ball

Click Here

The Rediff Special



The Rediff Interview/Era Sezhiyan

'Narasimha thinks, thinks and thinks but never decides; Deve Gowda decides everything first and thinks later!'

Era Sezhiyan When Era Sezhiyan,one of the founders of the Janata Dal, decided to part ways with the party, people began to smell trouble. He was one of the members of the organising committee set up by Jayaprakash Narayan which went on to establish the Janata Party. When the Janata Party was transformed into the Janata Dal in 1988, he became a founder member of that party too.

After Shobha Warrier's hour-long talk with the septuagenarian at his sprawling bungalow on Greenways Road, Madras, one got the impression that he belongs to a different era, an era where politicians believed in ideology, integrity and honesty. He never occupied any office when the party was in power, but was an important member of the party hierarchy. He says he was offered ambassadorships and governorships when the Janata Dal was in power, but refused all those "ornamental posts."

He believes that "if you go to a state as a governor, you should not come back to active politics. We attacked the institution of governor as a tool in the hands of the central government to disturb and destabilise state governments, so my principle did not let me accept the post."

In the statement you issued after your resignation from the Janata Dal, you compared your party to a rudderless ship swaying on both sides. What made you say that?

I have felt it for long and a stage came when I had to say these things in the open. I could not bear the deterioration that was taking place. Not only in the Janata Dal, but in the entire political system in India. There is a general deterioration of which the Janata Dal is no exception.

By deterioration, do you mean a lack of proper leadership or leaders?

(It is the lack of) proper functioning of the party on democratic principles for which the party is created or supposed to function. For example, take my party. If you look at the purpose for which the party was created you will understand. During the Emergency,democratic rights were suppressed, the press was gagged and everything happened that can happen only in a despotic State. Therefore, the Janata movement was born to liberate India and restore democratic values.

You win elections, you lose elections. But a stage has reached where we have forgotten for what purpose we are functioning as a party.

When did you first start feeling disillusioned?

In 1992.

Who could be responsible for the deterioration in the party?

I take responsibility for it. Because I was a top leader. I was in charge of the campaign committee. After the elections, I insisted that the party should reorganise itself on a democratic basis. Nothing happened. As long as the Janata Party was there, we had regular party elections. To a certain extent, the party was functioning as per the rules and regulations. But after the formation of the Janata Dal in 1988, the general elections came in 1989 and everything became ad hoc.

V P Singh On an ad hoc basis, committees were formed and V P Singh became the leader. After the fall of the JD government, I insisted that we have party elections. V P Singh did one good thing. He said we should have a party organisation. So, in 1992 apart from the national executive which has 80 members or so, we formed what they called a political affairs committee. It is a committee constituted by the party president and is the highest policy making body in the party.

I was a member and at one of the meetings held in 1992 we decided to have organisational elections, and they made me in charge of it. In fact, I was in charge of all the elections from top to bottom. I said then itself that if they do not co-operate and the elections were not conducted in time, I would not stick to the post, I would resign.

Finally we agreed that by the 9th of June 1993, all the elections up to the state level would be over and within a month we could have national elections. But only 7 out of the 25 states completed the elections, others did not. Even in Bihar and Orissa, where we had state governments, we refused to hold elections within the party.

Is it because the leaders were afraid of holding elections?

They were not scared, I think. They asked, what is the need. I am the chief minister, I am doing everything and why do you want another boss here?

But you are the people who criticise the Congress for not holding intra-party elections.

That is exactly what I said. We criticise other parties, but we make the same mistake. What moral authority do I then have to go to the people and say that some other party does not have a democratic set-up? How can I say that?

How did the other party leaders react to your suggestion about holding intra-party elections?

They didn't say 'no' to me, but they didn't do what they themselves assured me. I said, these two states (Bihar and Orissa) are guilty of not following the rudimentary aspect of conducting elections. I can understand the other states. There was a change in the government in Karnataka, there was a leadership change in Tamil Nadu. These two other states where we have a base, where we have come to power, did not hold organisation elections.

Lalo Prasad Yadav So, your dissatisfaction and disagreement was mainly with Laloo Prasad Yadav and Biju Patnaik.

Chiefly, But all the others did not have elections too. Then I said, this won't do - and resigned from the post two days after the target date.

Had any other leader been there at the helm of affairs, for example V P Singh, would it have made any difference?

Earlier, I had worked with Morarji Desai when he was prime minister. Chandra Shekhar was there. We all agreed and we functioned smoothly. Some differences were there, but this - not having your own party in order, and then calling your party a democratic party - did not happen then. The leaders were within the party, now the party is within the leaders or under the leaders. That sort of a change has taken place.

Is it because you have too many leaders now?

Maybe, maybe. That may be one of the reasons. But there is a metamorphosis of political functioning itself. Previously also, (in the Congress), there were dissensions and difference of opinions among the leaders, but it all happened within the party whether it be Nehru or Patel or Seetharamaiah. Then the party tolerated so many leaders.

Then a stage came when the leader became the party. Slowly, the party started moving along with the leader, not the other way round. Gandhiji and others were dominant figures in the party, but they discussed. Decisions were taken after debates. There were people who said, we do not agree with Nehru. After Mrs Gandhi's adventure in 1969, the party got deinstitutionalised. Then it became personality-oriented.

As far as my party is concerned, there should be co-operation among the leaders. Who is the number one, number two is not the question, but all the others should help the number one to function.

Photographs: Era Sezhiyan by D Sanjay


Home | News | Business | Sport | Movies | Chat
Travel | Planet X | Freedom | Computers

Copyright 1996 Rediff On The Net
All rights reserved