'The JD-U has become an ideology-less accessory to the BJP.'
Weeks after openly voicing his concerns over the Janata Dal-United's support to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, Ambassador Pavan Varma was expelled by the party headed by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Soon after the JD-U announced the extension of its alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party to the Delhi assembly election, Ambassador Varma wrote an open letter to Nitish Kumar, seeking 'ideological clarity' on the issue of the CAA, National Register of Citizens and National Population Register.
In response to his criticism, he was expelled, along with party vice president Prashant Kishor, who was also very vocal in his opposition to Kumar over CAA/NRC/NPR.
"Supporting the CAA was not majboori (helplessness). It was Nitish Kumar's choice which I questioned," Varma tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.
You tweeted, 'Thank you Nitish Kumarji for freeing me from my increasingly untenable position of defending you and your policies'. It looks like you were disagreeing with him for quite sometime, but were unable to speak your mind because you were a part of the JD-U.
I have been speaking my mind to Nitish Kumar on several issues, most prominently over the reason for the party's support to the CAA.
That was done both in conversation with him and through public tweets.
Secondly, I questioned him on the party's expansion on alliance (with the BJP) beyond Bihar to New Delhi.
In my view, before such steps are taken, there is a need for ideological clarity within the party.
Do we support the BJP's policies in every respect? Or do we have -- in accordance with our own ideology, our party constitution and Nitish Kumar's own views, particularly on issues of secularism, social harmony and peace -- differences that need to be taken on board?
Therefore I wrote to him and tweeted on the CAA issue.
I also wrote to him when he said no to the NRC, asking how did his deputy chief minister from the BJP, Sushil Kumar Modi, unilaterally announce the dates for the NPR in Bihar as the (central) government itself has said that the NPR is the first step to the NRC.
This has been in the public realm.
For sometime now I have been feeling strongly that our party in terms of its ideology is not in sync with the BJP's actions, policies and direction.
I, therefore, found Nitish Kumar's compromises were only for short-term political gains (which is) unacceptable.
JD-U leader K C Tyagi told me that the states are helpless as they have to implement the CAA, they cannot refuse, which is what even Congress leaders like Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi have said.
The JD-U supported it (the CAA) in Parliament when the bill is totally discriminatory, undemocratic, unconstitutional, violative of social peace and harmony and not in accordance with our party's constitution.
Supporting the CAA was not majboori (helplessness).
It was Nitish Kumar's choice, which I questioned.
As regard the CAA, it is an Act passed in Parliament, we have to see how Centre-state relations evolve in a democracy.
Because a majority of states have said that they will not implement the CAA and NRC.
Obviously, some solution will have to be found within the federal spirit by give and take and through constructive accommodation.
That process has to take place.
Many Hindus feel if persecuted Hindus don't come to India from Pakistan or Bangladesh, where will they go?
We have an existing Citizenship Act under which anyone who comes to India on certain specified conditions can apply for citizenship.
If you are amending this Act, I believe conferment of citizenship cannot be on basis of religion.
Secondly, please remember the CAA cannot be seen in isolation, but as hyphenated with the NRC.
When you see the CAA and the NRC combo together, it is very clearly directed against Muslims.
All of young India is saying we are Indians first.
We had enough of this divide and rule game. We do not want to be known only for our sectarian and religious identity.
Therefore, the protest which you are seeing.
How can Nitish Kumar go against Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi on the CAA? After all, Modi is leader of the National Democratic Alliance and Nitish Kumar has to respect that fact.
Did we not oppose scrapping Article 370?
Every party has its own individual identity. That identity is its ideology.
The JD-U, while expelling Prashant Kishor and you, said both of you did not adhere to party discipline. Aren't discipline and loyalty the fundamental requirements for any party?
The JD-U prides itself in saying it is a democratic party in which there can be differences of opinions.
It is not a one-man dictatorship party.
It claims it is a socialist party, fully committed to democratic debate, dissent and discussion.
The JD-U draws its inspiration from such iconic leaders who valued dissent and debate like Mahatma Gandhi, Ram Manohar Lohia and Jayaprakash Narayan.
Therefore, within the party, there can be more than one view on what decision the party takes.
I was trying to be a part of that debate.
But obviously now, in the JD-U, for purely short-term political gains, there is a high level of intolerance.
do you feel the JD-U will become a party of puppets?
The JD-U has become an ideology-less accessory to the BJP.
People say you revolted because you didn't get a Rajya Sabha seat for a third term.
It is such a petty critique. I have done what I felt what was right.
What I have done is on the basis of my conscience of what I believe is right.
It is not something that I need to react to. I have been an ambassador and an author.
By God's grace, I don't need such titles of position.
In any case if I was seeking a Rajya Sabha post of which I have never spoken about or asked for, why would I take a position which challenges the decision of the party?
What are your future plans?
I remain actively in politics. I will decide what my next steps will be for the right reason at the right time.
Any Urdu couplet on parting ways with JD-U, as you always quote Urdu couplets?
I say only one thing that today,it is the duty of every citizen to say what he or she believes is right. No other consideration matters.
Therefore I will say:
Main toh ikhlaq ke haathon hi biqa karta hoon
Aur hongey tere bazaar mein biknewaley
(There may be many who sell themselves for money and power
But I only bow before virtue).