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March 17, 2001
The Rediff Interview/ Jana Krishnamurthi
When Bangaru Laxman was elected president of the Bharatiya Janata Party last year, party vice-president Jana Krishnamurthi could not have been very happy. For all along, it was he who was tipped to become party chief after Shashikant 'Khushabhau' Thakre stepped down. However, with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee throwing his lot with Laxman, Krishnamurthi was persuaded to not push his case.
But, then, fate plays its own ironies. In an unexpected turn of events, the defence deals scam claimed Laxman, and the post is now Krishnamurthi's, albeit only in the 'acting' or 'officiating' capacity.
In an exclusive interview with Special Correspondent Onkar Singh, Krishnamurthi admits that the BJP's image has been hit badly by tehelka.com's expose.
You have taken over as acting president of the BJP at a very difficult time, when the party's image has gone for a six.
I do agree that the circumstances in which I had to undertake this responsibility are not something which one would welcome. But then, every organisation faces critical times. Even human beings face some problems in their lives.
Although Bangaruji's record is clear he tendered his resignation when some doubt was raised about his personal integrity. He said he is prepared to submit himself to any kind of inquiry. This shows he had no reservations about a thorough probe into the matter. He has upheld the best and highest traditions of the party.
There could not be any vacancy in any party when the man holding the highest post resigns. The office-bearers felt I should take charge of the party, so I have come to head the party under these circumstances.
But you have still not spelt out if the BJP's image has taken a beating.
I admit that the party's image has been seriously affected. People are dismayed, because in their assessment the BJP rated very highly for its personal and organisational integrity. When the expose came all of a sudden, it was a shock to the people who believed in our good image.
Has there been any change in the situation since then?
Of course, the party's image is once more looking up because of the manner in which Bangaru Laxman resigned to clear himself, the way the government took prompt action and announced an inquiry by a sitting or retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. The defence minister resigned even though there were no allegations against him. These actions have shown to the people that here is a government and party which do not hesitate to face a probe of any kind to clear the doubts.
If Mr Laxman is clean, why did the RSS spokesman then say that one of the Sangh's students has failed?
It is not that way. The RSS spokesperson had said there was something in the president and it needs to be probed. This is the stand of the BJP, the government and NDA partners. A probe of the highest level has been announced. What is more important for us is how this whole thing was brought out by tehelka.com.
It was in this context that the RSS spokesperson said when a teacher takes an exam many students pass it, while some fail. But the way this has been presented has been left to the individual newspapers.
The prime minister has said the time has come when we should take a close look at funding of political parties. Do you share his views?
As far as the BJP is concerned we had started some schemes for collecting money for the day-to-day running of the party. One of the schemes was the Ajivan Sahyog Nidhi. We accepted donations of Rs 10,000, 5,000 and Rs 2,000, and the contributors's list was published in our magazine. That way there is transparency in funds collection.
But when there are elections or some convention, others also give money. Donations are received by every party. But as far as the BJP is concerned, donations are entered into the accounts books. Even the Rs 100,000 received by Bangaru Laxman from tehelka.com has been accounted for and a proper receipt has been made out.
What the prime minister has said is that the system of funding of political parties should be dispensed with and the State should fund political parties. But we have to have electoral reforms to facilitate State funding of political parties. This is now under the consideration of the Law Commission.
At one point of time the BJP had said it would accept money only through cheques. Why did you give up this practice?
This was one of the suggestions that was mooted by Advaniji as president of the party. But it was not accepted because it was felt that it would not be practical to receive donations by cheque all the time. While the other parties raise money for their normal operations, we generate funds for this from our own members. We are for State funding of elections.
Do you approve of accepting donations from arms dealers?
I strongly disapprove taking donations from not only those who are selling arms but also from those who are seeking favours from the government of the day. Taking or asking for commission, is all wrong.
What you say is one thing, but what happens in reality is another. In every country, these practices are carried on in defence deals. There is not a single country which can claim that defence deals are above board. But I am not justifying it. I am only talking about the practical aspect of it.
One minister, George Fernandes, and two political leaders, Bangaru Laxman and Jaya Jaitly, have resigned. The government has announced a probe and I would like to wait for its outcome.
With technical advancement has come new problems. Some time back there was a news item which said a film actress had been photographed in the nude. Later, investigations showed the nude picture was that of another woman and only the face of the film actress had been superimposed on the nude body.
Likewise, many things happen. Even the video can be made and voices can be implanted. We had a mimic who could imitate political leaders like MGR etc. Let the inquiry bring out the truth.
But a commission of inquiry set up in 1992 is still struggling to reach the final stages of its investigation in the Babri Masjid demolition case...
You talk about this, but you won't talk about the other commission of inquiry that went into the circumstances leading to the burning of Graham Staines and his son in Orissa. This inquiry was completed within four months. I am sure even this inquiry would be completed in four months's time and the truth would come out.
Do you also believe that there is a larger conspiracy behind the tehelka.com expose?
Of course, there is a deep-rooted conspiracy behind the tehelka.com tapes. The Opposition is after the blood of the government and wants to bring it down by using the tapes as a pretext. Otherwise, they should have allowed Parliament to function and debated the whole issue and after that, whatever kind of inquiry it wanted the government could have announced. There is more to this than meets the eye.
Design: Uttam Ghosh
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