March 16, 2001


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The Rediff Interview/S Gurumurthy

The Rediff Interview/ S Gurumurthy
'The BJP is not like the Congress'

I am happy. Let all the wrongdoers resign," was how S Gurumurthy, convener of the Swadeshi Jaagran Manch reacted when Shobha Warrier asked him about the defence scandal. He appreciated the way the BJP conducted itself by asking its party president to resign. He quoted from the earlier scandals and said the Congress had only defended the corrupt. "So you cannot say there is no difference between the BJP and the Congress."

Did the expose by about corruption in the NDA government come as a shock to you?

More than being shocked, I am happy!


Why are you surprised? I am happy because some people got exposed. It will have a moderating influence on the entire political and bureaucratic system. I am unhappy because this country is not a corrupt country and its image is getting tarnished.

Society, on the whole is good. It is the political-bureaucratic system that is corrupt. Unfortunately, the country is receiving bad publicity because of this. While I am happy that it cleanses, I am unhappy that the country's name is getting tarnished.

India is not a corrupt country. Indian families are honest. Indian communities are functioning very honestly.

But you see only corruption if you enter a government office.

The government is not India. The government is nothing in India. Indian society governs itself to the extent of 80 per cent. The American government is 80 per cent of America, and that is the difference. Here in India, you cannot bribe a mother against a son or a son against a mother. This is what sustains India and 80 to 90 per cent of the people are honest to each other.

Bangaru Laxman Bangaru Laxman says he accepted the money for the party. As the party president, he says he can accept funds for the party. Do you believe this?

I am not going to give his defence or anything of that sort. If somebody had approached him with a deal, even the party is not supposed to accept the money.

He also said he was framed.

If you are framed, you are inefficient as well.

The image of the NDA and that of the BJP was very clean till now.

A party is a clean party not by assumptions but by its conduct. That the BJP asked Bangaru Laxman to step down as president of the party shows it is a clean party. I am happy that the BJP didn't try to put up a defence or explanation on his behalf. That gives the indication that the BJP is a clean party. I consider this conduct of the party to be very important. In a huge party, there will be people misbehaving like this. What is important is, how does the party react to that?

He also said he was targeted because he was a Dalit and that some parties did not want the BJP to get the support of the Dalits.

If you say somebody has framed you, that is a defence. He will have to establish that he is framed. It is a question of skill and efficiency if a political leader allows himself to be framed.

What kind of repercussions will it have on the coming assembly election? The NDA- led front had been telling the people it provided a clean governance at the Centre.

I cannot really say what kind of repercussions it will have. Do you look at corruption as a decider in an election? You take Tamil Nadu, is corruption going to be a decider in this election?

That's what Karunanidhi says. He wants to contrast the corrupt regime of Jayalalitha with his.

Then he should not have a Kannappan in his front. There is no line drawn between the corrupt and the non-corrupt. You can just broadly say, some people are corrupt and some are not. You can't say it is a battle between the clean and the corrupt. Such a situation is not there at all.

There were a lot of corruption charges against many Congress leaders. So far, the image of the BJP was very clean. This scandal has shown that there is no difference between the Congress and the BJP.

I don't agree with you. I think that is too much of a generalisation. Just look at the way the Vajpayee government reacted to corruption. Sukh Ram was asked to resign. Buta Singh was asked to resign. So, whenever there has been a corruption charge, they have always reacted by saying, the man has to go. Here, on a mere exposure, Bangaru Laxman was asked to resign. There was not even a corruption charge. It means that the party has a clear idea that it has to remain above corruption.

On the other hand, the Congress has defended corruption. The difference between the two parties is this. It is not that a party will have only clean people and the other party will have only corrupt people; the difference is the trend that the party sets in public. I think, in my view, the BJP is still different from the Congress.

Right from the days of Nehru, the Congress has defended corrupt people. He defended Krishnamachari, he defended Krishna Menon, and he defended K D Malaviya. Mrs Gandhi had a history of defending all corrupt people. Narasimha Rao himself was charged with corruption. Rajiv Gandhi was charged with corruption. So, you see that the Congress has a history of defending corrupt people.

Do you think people as a whole will understand this difference?

So long as the press is like this, it is not possible. The press in India is a disaster. They will never see goodness in the BJP because they think that if you give a certificate to the BJP, you are promoting communalism! These are two completely independent things. The press in India is blind to anybody who has got anything to do with Hindutva.

You told me earlier that only the English press behaves like that. What about the regional press?

The English press leads the country's mind. It is making the country's image muck. They will not say that the BJP has acted correctly. The press in India is as corrupt as any political party. I have seen journalists who are corrupt. I have seen proprietors who are corrupt. And, they keep issuing certificates to who is corrupt and who is not, and who is communal and who is not communal.

You have damned this damn country. It is nothing but besmirching India, dirtying India, finishing India. You have projected India as the most crime-ridden country in the world. I will read from the book that we have brought out at the Swadeshi Fair. Violent Crime per 100, 000 people: 439 in the USA, 364 in UK, 112 in Germany, 103 in France, 15 in Japan, 5 in China and 4 in India! This is from the Human Development Report of the world. Has the press in India ever said that India has the lowest crime rate in the world?

This scandal concerns the defence of the country…

Okay, let's consider it concerns road making, is it not important? If corruption is there in the purchase of medicines for a hospital, is it not important? In what way corruption is less offensive, or less repulsive?

Mrs Gandhi's second coming made the defence ministry corrupt. That's where all the problems arose. They began to think that it is the best place to make money.

All over the world, is it not in the defence department which is most corrupt?

Mrs Gandhi said corruption is a global phenomenon and justified it. Should we have corruption because it is there everywhere? Now tell me, how can you say the Congress and the BJP are the same? The Congress stands by Mrs Gandhi who said corruption was a global phenomenon. I don't think anybody in the BJP will say that. How do you expect the Congress to be credible on the issue of corruption? It is one of the most irresponsible parties.

I agree that there are people in the BJP who are like Congressmen, but the BJP is not like the Congress. The question is, how will the BJP treat a wrong doer and how will the Congress treat the wrong doer? We should not be confused. In the Congress, the leader himself or herself is corrupt. You can't do a damn but the leader will not resign. So, the party will have to defend the leader. That situation is not there in the BJP. The whole country will accept that Advani and Vajpayee are above corruption.

What about the defence minister?

George Fernandes and Jaya Jaitly In my view, he should clarify the role of that lady (Jaya Jaitly) and his set up. The most repulsive point is that she is in his house. If she did that as a party president from somewhere else, he can say, I have nothing to do with that. But if she is sitting in his own house and doing this, then, he cannot disown his responsibility.

Raj Kumar Gupta, who is described as one of the RSS trustees, said on tape that he was the fixer of many deals…

I can tell you, I know him. He has been banned from entering the RSS office for the last 30 years. He is a builder and was one of the contractors who built the RSS office in Delhi. He is a businessman. I have never seen him in Advaniji's house in the last 20 years. Why 20 years? It may be more than 30 years too. Only a broker will say that he is a fixer.

The RSS has some 30,000 trusts all over the country. There is nothing called a RSS trust. Some papers wrote he was a RSS trustee.

What kind of churning will this exposé have on Indian politics?

None. Unless you say, there are good people who react. When you say everybody is dirty, nothing will churn out of this. Despite the fact that Bangaru Laxman is a Dalit and if the BJP ask a Dalit to resign, it will have an impact on the Dalit vote, they have asked him to resign. They have taken a more ethical stand.

If you see that, there can be churning. If you don't, the next time when another charge comes, the BJP might say, even if we ask our president to resign, we are not going to be treated any differently. So, why should we ask our president to resign?

See, every family has wrong people. Every community has wrong people. Every village has wrong people. Can you say this village is a good village? A village is a good village if it punishes the wrong doer. A government is a good government if it punishes the wrong doer. A party is a good party of it punishes a wrong doer. A situation where there are no wrong doers will not exist.

Design: Dominic Xavier

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