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July 24, 2008

Former Bangalore police commissioner H T Sangliana, the man who arrested stamp scam kingpin Abdul Karim Telgi, won the Bangalore North Lok Sabha seat in 2004 on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket. He defied the party whip and voted for the United Progressive Alliance's trust motion on Tuesday.

He speaks to Nistula Hebbar on why he did so, as well as his plans for the future.

Why did you defy the party whip?

From the day the special session dates were announced, I made up my mind that I would vote for the nuclear deal. This deal is good for the country and I felt that the BJP was just opposing it for the sake of opposing it. The party was just afraid to share credit with the government. I kept my own counsel and at the time of voting, I cast it in favour of the government.

Did you defy the whip because you had a problem with the state unit?

Why should I have a problem with them? May be they had a problem with me; I don't know.

We saw how the party leaders, Ananth Kumar, Sadananda Gowda and MP Siddheshwar, surrounded you after the seat-wise vote was revealed, and you voted again on paper. What exactly happened?

My vote machine misfired and my vote did not register. These leaders came up when they noticed it and asked me about it. I told them that I have to vote with the Ayes. I went up to the secretary general and asked for a yellow slip and voted for the Ayes.

After that they surrounded me and roundly abused me. They also asked me to sit on the side of treasury benches, and gestured with clenched fists. I simply saw and listened to all this and flatly said "I am leaving the BJP because of people like you". My vote is not your private property. The way they behaved was a like a fish market.

What problem do you have with the party?

I don't have a problem with the BJP but I am leaving it because of third-rate leaders.

You sat through the division with a lot of heckling from the BJP and were staring straight ahead. What was going through your mind?

Nothing was going through my mind, I was just looking at the board where the electronic voting scores were displayed. There was a sign of peace in me, in my heart and my mind. My confused conscience was resolved, and I finally did what my heart had decided.

There is talk that you are against an anti-conversion Bill the Karnataka government is allegedly mulling over?

I am against wrongful conversion and I would be the first to complain if any such thing happens. However, our Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion. Every Indian should be free to choose their religion. There should be no interference. Such conversions should not be considered religious or even political poaching. Rather it is important to encourage every Indian to seek God and religion and be god fearing.

What about you future plans? Have you been in touch with the Congress high command?

I am not yet fully in touch with them (Congress). As for the future, I will continue to work for the poor and the marginalised, as I did as a policeman and later as an MP.

As far as politics is concerned, there are two possibilities: either I fight in Mizoram -- my native state -- or Bangalore, the city I gave the prime of my life to and with which I identify myself. In fact, I may even stand as an independent candidate, preferably from Bangalore Central.

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