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The Rediff Special


The Rediff Interview/Buta Singh

'The hawala case was a conspiracy
hatched against me by Rao...'

Buta Singh Buta Singh, who was once the most powerful minister in Indira Gandhi's Cabinet, was one of the many politicians whose political career was marred by the infamous hawala case. After his acquittal by the court last month, Singh has not just come out of exile, but is also bouncing back into active politics.

He is understandably angry with Narasimha Rao who, he says, used the Central Bureau of Investigation to finish him politically and vows to expose the former prime minister. In this interview withVinod Behl, Singh talks about his acquittal in the hawala case, the performance of the Akali Dal-BJP government in Punjab and the future of the Gujral government. Excerpts:

What you have to say about your acquittal in the hawala case?

Right from the beginning I was sure that the rule of law will prevail. It was very clear to me that this was a conspiracy hatched against me by Narasimha Rao... He had evil designs -- to finish the top echelons of the Congress party and establish his hegemony.

He tried to finish us by putting up false cases. The court judgment speaks loudly that there was no evidence against us. Still, he forced us to resign and face trial. The court found that the case is not fit for trial. Rao should have taken legal advice, but he deliberately tried to finish everybody who had some importance in the party. Now that I'm a free man, I will expose Rao in public.

What is your comment on the CBI role in the hawala case?

P V Narasimha Rao I don't want to comment on the present working of the CBI but, definitely, I have proof that the last director, Vijaya Rama Rao, was a stooge of Narasimha Rao and he was instrumental in fabricating false cases against the senior members of the Cabinet as well as the senior-most Opposition leader, L K Advani. The politicians who have been acquitted should be compensated for the immense damage caused to their reputation and career through false cases.

What do you have to say about the JMM case?

The jurisdiction of the case does not extend to the courts because everything happened in Parliament. The motion was introduced in Parliament and the process of election took place in Parliament. The proceedings of Parliament cannot be a subject matter of any court.

What do you think about the massive mandate received by Sitaram Kesri in the election for Congress president?

After a long time in the history of the Congress, the whole party has rallied around the leader, which shows the inner strength of the Congress party and unity in the Congress ranks. Those who were not very sure of their own success and those who were inwardly not very enthusiastic about Sitaram Kesri were plotting moves against consensus.

However, Sitaram Kesri has done a great service to the party by permitting internal democracy. He has proved that the Congress believes in internal democracy. And, let me tell you, Sitaram Kesri will not be vindictive against those who opposed him because I can say from 30 years experience in the Congress that he is not a confrontationist. Those who are bent upon destroying the party will find their own way out, but Kesri will not force them out.

But there are people who say that Kesri rigged the elections.

It is a baseless and fabricated charge by those who have licked the dust in the polls.

Now that the elections are over, what, according to you, is the agenda before Kesri?

The foremost task is to strengthen the foundations of the party. The Congress continues to be the largest party in the country. There is no village in the country where there is no Congressmen. This is the most widely spread party in the country. But it needs rejuvenation.

How do you view the electoral prospects of Congress, in Punjab and other states?

I am highly optimistic about the good electoral prospects of the Congress in the future. In Punjab, the Congress has shown its strength in the last municipal elections. Elsewhere in the country too, I am sure the Congress is going to come back. It's certainly an achievement for the Congress that it has emerged as the single largest unit in the municipal elections in Punjab. Look at the number of seats it had in Amritsar and Jalandhar. It's only in Ludhiana that the ruling party had an edge over Congress. In Amritsar and Jalandhar, the Akalis got the chairmanship by manipulating the elections.

How do you look at the performance of the Akali-Bharatiya Janata Party government in Punjab?

Sitaram Kesri The BJP-Akali combine has not taken off. They have not been able to give any shape to the manifesto they had declared with much fanfare. Moreover, the differences between the Akalis and the BJP have been sharpening with every passing day. They have failed on all fronts. They have not been able to control the economy or the extremists. Four major terrorist incidents have been taken place within two months. That clearly shows that separatist forces are still working to the detriment of the unity and integrity of the state.

The only plus point in the Akali government is the presence of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who is publicly claiming that he is against terrorism. But no other Akali leader whatsoever have condemned those Akalis who have sympathies with the extremists. See what happened at Akal Takht and other gurdwaras on Ghallu Ghara day (June 6).

The BJP is also very unhappy the way their allies are conducting themselves vis-a-vis terrorism and extremists in Punjab.

What do you think about the large number of cases being instituted against the police officers who fought terrorism in Punjab?

This is a very unfortunate development. This ploy to gain cheap publicity will send the wrong signals.

How do you react to Deve Gowda's statement that the Gujral government will not last long? There is also speculation that Kesri might withdraw support to the UF government.

Deve Gowda is a person who unceremoniously got himself defeated on the floor of Parliament and these are his desperate cries. As far as the Congress is concerned, it is fully behind Gujral and there is no threat to his government. Kesri has already made it clear. But then it also depends upon how long the UF and Gujral would like to utilise Congress support. So long as they follow the ideologies and policies of the Congress, there is no threat to the government.

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