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The Rediff Interview/Laxman Singh

February 25, 2004

Muted whispers about former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh's younger brother Laxman Singh joining the Bharatiya Janata Party caused intense surprise. After joining the BJP on February 24, Laxman Singh, the Congress MP from the Rajgarh parliamentary constituency in the 13th Lok Sabha, told Chief Correspondent Tara Shankar Sahay why he crossed over.

Your joining the BJP has expectedly raised the charge that you crossed over from the Congress in order to 'manage' the cases that the Madhya Pradesh government has filed against your brother.

It is claptrap, a figment of imagination. There are always people who specialise in making wild charges against political adversaries. I think it is best to ignore them.

Nevertheless, journalists from Madhya Pradesh are categorical that you crossed over to help the BJP by abusing the Congress. In return, the BJP will soft-pedal the charges against your brother.

Why should they be afflicted by such paranoia? I don't understand. They are a preposterous bunch.

It is alleged the BJP has promised you the party ticket from Rajgarh so that you can return to Parliament.

I have never heard such utter nonsense. For your kind information, I have joined the BJP without any condition. I made it clear to its leadership that I am not hankering for anything in my new party. Of course, I have my area of influence in Rajgarh and I intend to help the BJP in any way it deems fit.

How can you join the BJP eight weeks before the general election and not expect tongues to wag?

I joined the BJP because Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's National Democratic Alliance government is the only one to be in power for so long and thrive. It has no parallels.

Vajpayeeji is a mighty leader of international stature; he is a statesman. I am impressed by what he has achieved for his country and government.

The prime minister has reduced interest for farmers from 15 percent to 8.5 percent, which is bound to boost agricultural growth. His project for roads all over the country is impressive and will generate a lot of employment. His blueprint for linking the nation's rivers is praiseworthy and indicates a visionary mind. If I found progress in the BJP, there is regress there (Congress). I was overwhelmed by ennui in that party which was weighing me down.

What is your specific grievance against the Congress?

Basically, its sheer opportunism in its electoral alliance with the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham and its southern allies. It befuddles me. Only some years ago they were our enemies for the role in Rajiv Gandhi's assassination. Today, all that is overturned and the Congress-DMK alliance fructified. It was too much for me.

So you were disenchanted with Sonia Gandhi's leadership?

She is being misled by her gaggle of advisors.

Who are they?

I don't want to take names. You know them as well as I do.

What are these advisors doing?

Playing general hell. At their behest, the party is being guided now here, now there. Ethics and principles have been given a complete go-by. I felt claustrophobic and decided that it would not be justified for me to remain in the Congress.

As a Congress leader, you are said to have made disparaging remarks about BJP leaders. It is said the BJP's Madhya Pradesh unit is mobilising itself to oppose you.

Again, all this is the handiwork of the media. I have emphasised that I have joined the BJP without conditions. I am at its service in whichever way I am required.

BJP chief M Venkaiah Naidu said that any opposition from the MP unit of his party would be sorted out, so there must be something.

Why are you forgetting that it is the BJP high command which cleared my joining the party? The BJP high command knows that when I was in the Congress, I couldn't have respect for the party leaders, including those in MP, whereas I respected their counterparts in the BJP.

My stay in the Congress had become untenable.

What if you are confronted with opposition from BJP leaders in MP?

I told Venkaiahji that I was joining the party and that if anybody had any objections I would go by whatever he decided. That should satisfy you.

Your brother and you are now going different ways. Wouldn't that create problems?

The two of us are free to pursue our independent political destiny.Photograph: Ranjan Basu/ Saab Press

Image: Uday Kuckian

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