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Power Of One Team

Sreenivasan Jain : Hello and welcome to this power of one as we promise to kick of what promises to be a no holds barred session of parliament I am joint by somebody who regardless of some of his own political affiliations is one of the fiercest critics of the Indian political system, Ram Jethmalani, thanks very much indeed sir for joining us.


Ram Jethmalani : My Pleasure.


Sreenivasan Jain : Let me begin sir with something about which you had very strong views, which was the presidential election. We have now had the vice presidential elections as well. And in both these cases the UPA candidates have won with a thumping majority. Where do you think the NDA strategy went wrong?


Ram Jethmalani : The NDA strategy didn't go wrong, the numbers didn't as we expected them to go. The numbers were fixed, this is a limited electorate not the people of the country who are voting, it’s the election college that decides and there people are almost bound by party wips which are secretly issued. Though they don't admit it, so everybody has voted more or less according to his party


Sreenivasan Jain : In the selection of candidates do you think the party could have done better? Because you felt very strongly that the NDA couldn't generate a candidate who could not take on Pranab Mukherjee. You even said that look if you cannot come up with a name you would throw your own hat in the ring.


Ram Jethmalani : I did that but i didn't want this election to go un contested because this is a opportunity and preparation for the 2014 elections


Sreenivasan Jain : So do you think PA Sangma was a good enough candidate or could the NDA have come up with a better name?


Ram Jethmalani : Well the NDA could have probably come up with a better name, but you know the trouble here is, that i don't think that even in the NDA there is any uniform thinking processes. Even they are divided in these issues.


Sreenivasan Jain : Each party, each member, constituent is pulling in their own direction..


Ram Jethmalani : That’s right, and that’s the weakness of the opposition and in this country if you ask me that is the current corrupt and incompetent government can survive? It is merely because the opposition is not well organized


Sreenivasan Jain : And who is responsible for this, because the BJP is the leader of the NDA.


Ram Jethmalani : There are too many for example aspiring prime ministers in the opposition. And mind you, if you are fighting a corrupt government, if you are fighting corruption and black money and things like that , then you have to have complete cleanliness in your stables


Sreenivasan Jain : You can’t through stones if you are living in a glass house?


Ram Jethmalani : See people who live in glass houses cannot afford to throw stones at others, so therefore there are certain persons in the opposition parties who weaken the opposition parties by reason of the fact that they don't stand up to the standards of ethics and morality and integrity which are required .


Sreenivasan Jain : Those are very strong and important points, let me take you up on the first which is the fact that the opposition has too many prime ministerial candidates, when you say that if you look at the BJP its self and this is something that has been said again and again that it seems like just within the BJP there are too many people who seem to be squabbling for the prime minister’s job.


Ram Jethmalani : The word too many is a bit of an exaggeration, but there are certainly more than one person who are aspiring prime ministers in the BJP though in a democracy everyone is entitles to aspire for the higher post. But all the people who so aspirer must also have a reasonable estimate of their own capabilities and now this is very difficult to expect this kind of objectivity from the people. And that is why; i mean i can't conceal the fact that there are aspiring prime ministers in the entire NDA constellation.


Sreenivasan Jain : Who do you think has a better chance of succeeding? Do you think that Narender Modi who is someone that he is a candidate?


Ram Jethmalani : according to me he is a fairly strong candidate, by reason of his integrity, by reason of his efficiency. After all you cannot deny the look of the Gujrat state and you may not believe it but i believe that even the Muslim minority in the state is quite happy.


Sreenivasan Jain : Mr Jethmalani, I won’t draw you into a debate into Narendra Modi and the Raj, because that will side track us. But enough to say that you believe that he is a strong candidate?


Ram Jethmalani : At least please, you can curtail my answer but don’t interrupt it.


Sreenivasan Jain : Ok, I beg your pardon.


Ram Jethmalani : No I know that you don’t intend to do that.


Sreenivasan Jain : But do you think that Modi is a strong candidate within the BJP?


Ram Jethmalani : He is a very very strong candidate.


Sreenivasan Jain : And you believe that there are too many others who perhaps may not have those qualifications but are aspiring for that job?


Ram Jethmalani : Yes of course, again with my reservation that too many is a grose exaggeration.


Sreenivasan Jain : Ok there are more than one?


Ram Jethmalani : Of course.


Sreenivasan Jain : The other important point which is about the fact that the NDA also has amongst its members those who have a blemished track record of corruption. Are you talking about Mr. Yeddurappa for example? Or the BJP in Karnataka? Which clearly has become an Achilles’ heel, for the party in its attempt to take a stand against corruption?


Ram Jethmalani : Don’t expect me to comment on matters which are sub judice because that’s one of my professional obligations. I am appearing for some people form Karnataka I have no right to comment upon them. I mean it will almost be a contempt of court if I publically speak about the merits of a pending matter.


Sreenivasan Jain : But you have said that there are question marks over the integrity of some people over the NDA


Ram Jethmalani : Undoubtedly, there are because the NDA doesn’t consist of angels it also consists of human beings with all their inanities and frailties and you know the defects of character.  


Sreenivasan Jain : And that is the problem when you trying to pin down the congress?


Ram Jethmalani : Therefore when I go to the electorate I don’t propose to tell them that this is a fight between demons and angels. All that I am going to tell them is that this is a fight between people who are totally immersed in corruption and those who are much corrupt


Sreenivasan Jain : So it’s just a matter of degrees really?


Ram Jethmalani : Of course it’s a matter of degrees, but the matter of degrees is so vast that it’s almost a difference of time.


Sreenivasan Jain: Mr Jethmalani, when you talked about NDA, the opposition is pulling in many directions, one of the strongest examples of that was recent blog post by Mr Advani where he concede, neither the BJP nor the  congress will form the government of their own, they will end up supporting some third front, which many from his own party and the NDA found extremely demoralizing statement


Ram Jethmalani: Well, as a statement of fact, i will justify as being the statement as opinion and honestly entertained by Mr. Advani and it is part of constitutional right, freedom of the speech, which he has. So, to that extent i think nobody can object to his analysis what he did, i mean he has attempted a prediction, which everybody is entitled to but it might be wise political action. If he had refrained from doing it because it has effect of demoralizing the average worker of the party, the average party worker expects the party to succeed in excellence and he wants to enjoy the glory of that success


Sreenivasan Jain: And here you have commander in chief already conceding possibly conceding defeat


Ram Jethmalani: Well it’s not conceding defeat, he is conceding defeat for congress also, so he puts congress and the opposition in the same putting , so he doesn't do too much harm


Sreenivasan Jain: But here he is as a member of the opposition?


Ram Jethmalani:  And you might argue that his confession is binding more BJP than congress but believe me today that he could only do it because he knows perfectly well that congress is in a bad shape, their watermark today is the air


Sreenivasan Jain: i want to come to the air to the throne and your attack on him or your strong in second but i want to stay little with Mr Advani's comments, Bal Thackeray has said, “this is very demoralizing comment you have made," and he says i wish you have not done it on the eve of important election?


Ram Jethmalani:  To Some extent, i do agree with Bal Thackeray also, politically it was very unwise thing to do. But ultimately nobody can find fault with a person who is making an honest prediction for the future, in a democracy truth must collide with an error, there are other people with contrary opinion but argue with him and tell him that you are wrong.


Sreenivasan Jain: Will you do that if you get a chance and say Mr. Advani, i think what you have said is a mistake


Ram Jethmalani: But i am saying it now


Sreenivasan Jain: Okay, via us


Ram Jethmalani: Via you, he is a friend of mine, I can call and tell him on the phone whatever i tell him and he won’t mind it, be sure


Sreenivasan Jain: No, of course you have a very very long and old relationship with him, i want to ask you, Mr Jethmalani, the comments you preceded this entire interview about, a sense of confusion and lack of cohesion within the opposition in the NDA and you particularly felt very strongly what is happening within the BJP, i am referring to the famous letter you wrote to the BJP President where you said that , i presume that you are aware about the sickness of our party which registers no response to even greater sickness of the ruling party, these are very strong words


Ram Jethmalani:  Of course, these are words which are meant to be strong and i think they were little mild for the occasion


Sreenivasan Jain: Really!


Ram Jethmalani: Yes


Sreenivasan Jain: What is it about, the sickness within the BJP that is troubling you, what aspects of it?


Ram Jethmalani:  The sickness that is troubling me within the party, BJP is that we are not responding in a manner which we should to the catastrophic is represented by the ruling regime at the present moment


Sreenivasan Jain: Why not, where are they going ?



Ram Jethmalani: I have never seen more corrupt government in this country which is responsible for all the ills in this unfortunate nation and i don’t see a redeeming feature except in one or two unimportant people who are my friends in the congress party, but by enlarge, i think this nation has been badly let down. First of all let us go to issue number one, how can you have an uncrowned empress of the company.


Sreenivasan Jain: I will come to Sonia Gandhi in just a second


Ram Jethmalani: You will come to it, i will come to it in my own time in my own place.


Sreenivasan Jain: You will, but i want to ask you to say that BP has not been able to rise to the challenge, why is that, one of the thing, you mentioned in your letters that tongue-tied leaders are busy pulling down one another and creating unmistakably impression that they are suffering from inexplicable inertia and paralysis?


Ram Jethmalani: Yes, of course it’s a correct statement and i still stand by it and i must tell you that when this letter was received by the BJP president and he immediately called me and said that after few days we will meet and discuss this matter with you, nobody has done it, nobody has contradicted me so far.


Sreenivasan Jain: Did he meet you


Ram Jethmalani: No, he has not


Sreenivasan Jain: No meeting?


Ram Jethmalani: No, he has not, that's my grievance, i am not considered as leader of BJP in a way it is very healthy situation.


Sreenivasan Jain: You say that at the outset that my impertinence calling you a colleague even though i am no means leader of the party as you are , but when you say pulling down one another, is the infighting that bad at the moment


Ram Jethmalani: Well, it has been pretty bad


Sreenivasan Jain: And do you think, Nitin Gadkari, as the president of the party must take responsibility, who will otherwise?


Ram Jethmalani: Of course, somebody has to take the responsibility, in fact all these leaders, ex leaders and today you can’t say there is on leader, after all we have the BJP president, we have leader of parliamentary party, you have leaders of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, you have leaders of the opposition in the Lok sabha, who're all supposed to be potential prime ministers of the country, they all share the responsibility of this utmost utter impotence.


Sreenivasan Jain: Utter impotence?

Ram Jethmalani: Of course they have done nothing, did you see any great speech during this whole election of the president? And not that he has become a president, I have to respect that office.

Sreenivasan Jain: But you feel they just didn’t rise to this to the challenge? They were not critical enough?

Ram Jethmalani : Believe you me I am ashamed of whome we have elected.

Sreenivasan Jain: You continue to be?

Ram Jethmalani: Of course.

Sreenivasan Jain: Sir now he is holding the presidential office shouldn’t we be..    

Ram Jethmalani: Therefore I will be quiet! And unless I am provoked by the press like you I will not say it.

Sreenivasan Jain: Should you have been the NDA’s candidate? Would you have been a much tougher candidate for Pranab Mukerjee than Sangma?

Ram Jethmalani: I am not sure about it.

Sreenivasan Jain: Be candid now, that Sangma was not strong enough?

Ram Jethmalani: I don’t say that he wasn’t strong enough, perhaps I would have been a bit of a stronger candidate than Sangma. But on the other hand my colleagues in the party didn’t think so. I am too indifferent to holding office. In fact if you ask me, now that we are in an intimate conversation of this kind. My lifestyle doesn’t fit in with the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Sreenivasan Jain: (laugh) Why do you say that?

Ram Jethmalani: You know what I mean.

Sreenivasan Jain: Well why not we can have a colorful president in office, it doesn’t have to be somebody who is strictly playing by the rule book

Ram Jethmalani: But you know who wants colorful presidents anyways, you want Mrs Patil.

Sreenivasan Jain: Well certainly you can’t speak for me. But what is the answer then for the BJP? If you are saying that you wrote a strong letter, your missive was ignored, the leaders are fighting amongst themselves, elections are now only less than one and half years away. What’s the answer? What should happen?

Ram Jethmalani: Let me tell you my … I am laying bare my heart to you. I have been saying that I am a person who is sitting in the departure lounge of an airport, waiting for the flight to be called. I would give up politics.

Sreenivasan Jain: But you want to keep staying on and keep fighting?

Ram Jethmalani: I want to fight, I will fight till the last day of my life.

Sreenivasan Jain: But Mr. Jethmalani doesn’t it become a unattainable position for you where you are a member of the BJP but yet. But yet you are saying that the BJP is in a state of paralysis?

Ram Jethmalani: I must tell you one thing, that in life you have to select the lesser evil, nobody is perfect and I believe that anything is better than the current regime than what is ruling us.

Sreenivasan Jain: Even in your own words, a party which is paralyzed which is fighting within itself. All of that?

Ram Jethmalani: Paralyzed is a term that’s brings out the extent to which I am disappointed. But paralyzed doesn’t mean literally that they are completely dead almost and they need to be revived

Sreenivasan Jain: But there is still a better option?

Ram Jethmalani: Much better options.

Sreenivasan Jain: What about the prime minister himself, you have always said that he is an individual that you respect?

Ram Jethmalani: I will tell you one thing today that I would tell the prime minister in person and not that I have not told him. I told him that if you have disassociated yourself with this filth you would have been a hero in this country and you would have been the next president of India. 

Sreenivasan Jain: That he should have resigned ?

Ram Jethmalani: He should have got out of this filth. Today his so called goodness and integrity has become a cover for almost indefensible people.

Sreenivasan Jain: And you believe that on the other side things are relatively better? Or is it as bad?

Ram Jethmalani: If it was as bad I would quit. Then I would stand on my own.

Sreenivasan Jain: But its relatively better?

Ram Jethmalani: Yes relatively better.

Sreenivasan Jain: You have given me at least a very strong lesson or a message for the prime minister. What will be your message for Mr. Advani?

Ram Jethmalani: First of all the prime minister and its party should stop calling all political opponents as communal. I believe that no politician in this country understands even the meaning of secular. Nobody understands secularism, and yet everybody claims to be secular and everybody blames the opponent to be communal. Without understanding what secularism means. That is biggest tragedy of this country. My advice to the prime minister is that the solution of this country today is honest congress men and honest BJP people should join together in coalition to run this government


Sreenivasan Jain:  You know, Mr Jethmalani, that will never happen


Ram Jethmalani: It can happen, It can happen provided some serious impediments like sack offence and flatterer which Mrs. Gandhi has collected around herself, disappear from the scene


Sreenivasan Jain: Would your own party will be willing to consider the idea of a national government because it is a balloon that has floated from time to time, it has never been taken very seriously


Ram Jethmalani: I will persuade my party to accept it but it is the only solution of this country today because there are good and honest people in the congress, there are good and honest people in every political party


Sreenivasan Jain:  So you are proposing the idea of  a national government, it is something that is floating from time to time but never seems to really..


Ram Jethmalani: Because this ruling combination, whatever it is just no good, it is tragic.


Sreenivasan Jain: Will you make the same proposal to Mr. Advani?


Ram Jethmalani: I have made the proposal in your presence which is a proposal to everybody.


Sreenivasan Jain: That a national government is the only solution?


Ram Jethmalani:  Only solution, only solution of this problem, good and honest people  and listen they must announce that at least one third of the cabinet will be people from people who are not politicians, or in any political party but who are experts in their own fields



Sreenivasan Jain: Will you take the lead in trying to suggest the idea of a national government, will you spearhead that initiative


Ram Jethmalani: Haven't i have taken the lead by talking to you like this


Sreenivasan Jain: Okay, well that’s certainly the first step, we will wait to see indeed if you follow it up, Mr Ram Jethmalani thank you so much for talking to us


Ram Jethmalani: My pleasure.


7 years ago

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