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Baba Ramdev not as credible as Hazare: Digvijay

Last updated on: May 12, 2011 09:17 IST

Image: Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh
Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh has acquired a penchant for courting the controversial. In recent months, the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister has taken on Home Minister P Chidambaram for his 'less than satisfactory handling of the Maoist problem,' expressed dissatisfaction with the handling of the Batla house affair, and last week criticised the manner in which the United States government buried Al Qaeda leader  Osama bin Laden.

In an interview with Neerja Chowdhury, Singh spoke about the recently held assembly polls in 5 states, the ongoing farmers' agitation in Uttar Pradesh, the Lokpal bill and the future of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi.

The Congress has been on the back-foot in the last nine months with scam after scam hitting the headlines. Many Congress leaders believe that if the party fares well in the five assemblies where elections have just been held, a difficult situation might be turned around.

Assembly elections don't have an impact on the national scene because they are state specific. It does, to some extent, indicate the people's mood.

Are you hoping to win?

Let's hope for the best.

In Assam, where you were incharge?

We will win Assam because of a division of votes and the image of (Chief Minister) Tarun Gogoi.

Coming back to my question, will victory in these elections help turn around the situation for the Congress?

To some extent. But, as I have already said, state elections do not have a bearing on the national scene.


'Mayawati's greed has overtaken everything else in UP'

Image: UP CM Mayawati
Photographs: Reuters

The farmers are on a rampage in Uttar Pradesh. Is it a warning signal for the government there? What do you think should be done to contain the situation?

In UP, the greed of (Chief Minister) Mayawati has overtaken everything else. The only thing that matters to her is money. The farmers have been agitating on land acquisition for a long time, and there have been violent clashes. Although she has come out with an amended policy on land acquisition, she has shown total insensitivity to the issues raised by farmers.

For example, in this case, the farmers had been agitating for four months but no one from the administration thought it fit to have discussions with them. What they were asking for was for the involvement of land ousters in the project, which is a fair demand. Why shouldn't the farmers be beneficiaries of value addition in development projects?

Only if she had shown sensitivity and magnanimity, this would not have happened. She is taking away the farmers' lands at throwaway prices and giving it to big real estate developers. At the same time, she is taking huge amount of money upfront from these developers.

In fact, land allocation in Noida in the last 20 years is the one of the biggest scams which needs to be investigated from 1990 onwards, and no one is looking at it.

(Rashtriya Lok Dal chief) Ajit Singh immediately rushed off to the affected spots in UP as soon as violence erupted, but the Congress was not to be seen?

At this point of time when is was violence, the need of the hour is to bring peace. The administration is already facing the fury of the farmers. The Congress did not want the situation to deteriorate further. But the fact is that it is only the Congress party which has been fighting for the farmers in the last 4 years.

(However, Digvijay Singh and Rahul Gandhi visited the agitating Bhatta Parsaul village on Wednesday, where they were taken into preventive custody by UP police and later released on bail)

'Baba Ramdev not as credible as Hazare'

Image: Baba Ramdev

Do you feel the judiciary and the prime minister should be included in the ambit of the Lokpal bill, which is now being drafted?

We should allow the drafting committee to complete its task. My personal opinion is that we should include everyone -- judiciary, corporates and NGOS.

What about the Prime Minister and the PMO?

As chief minister, I was within the ambit of the Lokayukta. But this is a very sensitive matter. Let the drafting committee go into the nuances and let Parliament give it a thought. There has to be checks and balances so that a duly elected PM is not unseated on flimsy grounds by a body not directly elected.

Some people feel that since the drafting committee for the Lokpal Bill was made up of government and civil society members, it   could have also included the leader of opposition to make it more complete to look at such a vital issue.

When it comes to Parliament, the LOP will be there. I think under the circumstances the way the decision took place, it was extraordinary and unusual.

Do you mean the government caved in?

I am not saying that.

After Anna Hazare, now Baba Ramdev has announced that he will be going on a fast against corruption.

Baba Ramdev's credibility is not the same as Anna Hazare's credibility is.

'Rahul will choose his own time'

Image: Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi

The Congress seems to have lost steam in UP

You will be surprised.

Are you confident you will capture UP?

To some extent. There is a definite improvement (there).

What about Rahul Gandhi? Many feel that he is not coming upfront to play the role he was envisaged to play.

Rahul is concentrating on the student and youth wings of the Congress. He has been given that task and he is concentrating on it. Elections to these bodies will be over by November, 2011. He is methodical and persevering in what he does. He has been able to do the unthinkable -- having elections in the Youth Congress and National Students Union of India.

What about the bigger role for him?

Obviously yes. But the timing will depend on his choice.

There is talk that he may play a bigger role in the party from December onwards?

Let's see.

A CM for 10 years, with all that experience behind you, as a senior leader of the party, how do you see your role now?

I would like to revive the party wherever it is weak than to be in the ministry.