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'How can you call such an election free and fair?'

Last updated on: April 04, 2024 11:01 IST
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'The BJP is racing against its opponents by putting a chain on their legs.'

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party supremo Narendra D Modi with Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Jayant Chaudhary, right, and other leaders at an election meeting in Meerut, March 31, 2024. Photograph: Jitender Gupta/ANI Photo

A month after Jayant Chaudhary announced the Rashtriya Lok Dal's alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party and become a part of the National Democratic Alliance, his party's vice president, Shahid Siddiqui, resigned from the party.

On his X account, Siddiqui tweeted: 'Why I resigned now? Two reasons. I didn't want to resign immediately as I welcomed the Bharat Ratna accorded to Chaudhary Charan Singh Ji. I didn't want to be seen opposing it. Secondly, the attack on elected chief ministers and Opposition parties when elections have been announced is an attack on Indian democracy and the great institutions that we have built.'

This is the second time that Siddiqui has resigned from the RLD (the first time was in 2012). Since then he has been a part of the Congress, Samajwadi Party and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party.

A well-known Muslim face in Indian politics and a respected chief editor of Nai Dunia, an Urdu weekly newspaper, Siddiqui shot into the national limelight when he interviewed the then chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, in 2012 on the 2002 Gujarat riots.

"The BJP is not giving a level playing field to Opposition parties. The Election Commission, too -- the way it has set dates of elections in eight phases. If EVMs are not saving time and polling goes on for three months, it is dangerous," Siddiqui tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/

When you joined the RLD again, what were your expectations from the party?

I joined the RLD after a long movement in the western Uttar Pradesh region of Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor and Kairana areas after the Muzaffarnagar riots. I wanted to bring the two communities together who were at loggerheads then post riots.

I formed an organisation called Samajik Ekta Manch of which I was the president and Jayant Chaudhary was the vice president. We organised meetings between Hindus and Muslims to create an atmosphere of bhaichara (brotherhood) in that region.

After working for a few years, I joined the Rashtriya Lok Dal because I felt the RLD could bring the two communities closer to each other.

Were you inspired by the late Chaudhary Charan Singh, Jayant Chaudhary's grandfather?

Absolutely. I had known him since 1979 when Charan Singhji was the prime minister of India. My father was in jail with the late Charan Singhji during the Emergency.

When Charan Singhji came out of jail I met him many times and as a student I was close to him and believed in his ideology. He always worked for all the communities and for their welfare.

Did you speak to Jayant Chaudhary on why he was seeking an alliance with the BJP?

I spoke to him only once and he had already taken a decision by then.

He told me that it was essential for him to keep the party going, otherwise the party will be in trouble.

According to him, remaining out of power for very long will see him losing his support base. Therefore, it was essential for him to continue with the alliance with the BJP.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had decided to give the Bharat Ratna to Chaudhary Charan Singh and he told me that this was a great samman (respect) to his grandfather and therefore he could not oppose Mr Modi in politics.

It was his decision and not my decision, therefore I kept away from party activities. After one month, I decided to resign.

Where is the ideology for the RLD, then? Does ideology exist in any political party in India today?

Ideology does not exist in any political party of India. This includes the BJP too.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee spoke about Raj Dharma, but the BJP is not following its Raj Dharma.

Raj Dharma says the Opposition must be allowed to fight elections honestly.

Indira Gandhi too allowed her opponents to contest elections honestly after the Emergency. And when the results came out, Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi lost the elections.

The way two chief ministers were arrested before elections, I feel the BJP is not following Vajpayee's Raj Dharma.

The only party that runs on ideology to a certain extent is the CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist). No other party runs on its ideology in an honest way.

Is this the lowest point in Indian democracy, as some say today we are worse off than during the Emergency?


I have been following Indian politics from close for the last 70 years. My father was in the Indian freedom movement and from my childhood I have seen all the leaders from different political parties very closely.

India always believed in democracy and the Constitution where everybody has equal rights. Fundamental Rights were of utmost importance in our polity.

Today we are losing our institutions and the image of a great democracy. This is the lowest point in our politics.

The Emergency was the lowest at one point of time, but after the Emergency elections were held which were free and fair.

Indira Gandhi was a dictator and put all the Opposition leaders in jail, but once they were released she did not try to influence the Election Commission or voters in a dishonest way.

Are the 2024 general elections being conducted in an honest manner?

The BJP is racing against its opponents by putting a chain on their legs. How can you call such an election free and fair?

If the chief ministers had done something wrong, then they could have arrested them six months earlier or after the elections.

Once elections are announced you have to give all your opponents an equal opportunity to contest against you. This is not being done today.

Income tax cases against the Congress which are six years old or eight years old should not be brought in today. Elections have been announced.

I believe the Supreme Court has announced to stop all this for now.

The BJP is not giving a level playing field to Opposition parties.

The Election Commission, too -- the way it has set dates of elections in eight phases, and this at a time when the BJP is talking of one nation, one election.

I have seen days when election counting was done in two days using ballot papers. And if you have such delayed results in today's times, what is the point of computers or EVMs?

If EVMs are not saving time and polling goes on for three months, it is dangerous.

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