|Posted: Sat Nov 10, 2007 1:59 pm Post subject: Interview with Rajiv Rudy
|Posting in full as Statesman deletes article
‘BJP second pole of Indian politics’
As a national spokesman for the BJP, Mr Rajiv Pratap Rudy has his job well cut out. At the age of 45, this former Union minister of state for commerce and civil aviation in the Atal Behari Vajpayee government has come a long way from being a legislator in Bihar. He has now emerged as an enterprising politician, who is well versed in computers to make and name a programme after him.
On the day this correspondent interviewed him, Mr Rudy became perhaps the first former civil aviation minister to be given a commercial pilot licence that made him eligible to apply for a job as a commercial pilot.
With age on his side, the young BJP leader says he is satisfied with what the party has so far given him. He is in the BJP because unlike the Congress, he says, it recognises capabilities in individual leaders and allows them to grow. He flayed the Centre for undoing what the NDA government had achieved in the aviation sector ~ making “air travel affordable for the aam admi”.
He also lashed out at the Left and Congress over their stand on the Indo-US nuclear deal in the course of an interview with DIPANKAR CHAKRABORTY.
Has the Indo-US nuclear deal become an example of competitive politics? If the BJP were to be in power could it have dumped the deal, as you are demanding of the UPA now? Was it not the BJP which went all out to woo the US for high-level cooperation?
The broad outlines of this nuclear agreement was spelt out in 2005 when the Left partners were supporting the UPA. That was a time when the Congress-led UPA government broached the subject of nuclear cooperation and strategic cooperation. This step was almost to a degree a follow-up of what the BJP government had done. The Left as a ploy, per say, is not opposing the deal. Their opposition has to do with their anti-Americanism, which could have been voiced in the very first year of the UPA government they are supporting from outside. But they chose to wait for an opportune time to gain the maximum political mileage out of it keeping in mind the Assembly elections to be followed by general elections.
Assuming the BJP comes back to power at the Centre tomorrow, would it be in a position to dump and ignore this nuclear agreement, despite all the party’s current objections to the deal?
If the BJP were to come to power it would be unfair to ignore the treaty. But the option of making corrections would be kept open at the negotiating table. The fact remains that at the background of this deal is a business of one lakh crore. Whether it is transfer of nuclear technology, or nuclear devices or nuclear infrastructure, certainly all this makes the deal a lucrative one. It is a multi-million transaction, which will accrue after the deal is signed.
But is it not true that the BJP, which went out of its way to woo the US for high-end technological transfer, has been the main mover of the deal?
There are a lot of things in the nuclear deal which needs to be addressed and corrected. But the UPA government is not even acceding to a course correction.
What is going to be the party’s stand on the deal in Parliament? Would it be willing to participate in debate, which does not entail voting at the end of discussion?
There is an inherent contradiction between the Left and the Congress-led coalition (on the nuclear deal). Even if the BJP wants this government to fall during voting on the issue, it is unlikely to happen because we don’t have the requisite number.
Issues like price rise, unemployment and farmers’ suicide are sufficient enough ground for us to see this government is thrown out of power. Any motion that facilitates the ouster of this government because of its inherent contradictions is certainly welcome. This government has lost its mandate to govern. It is our duty as an opposition to vote this government out of power.
What do you have to say about the Left’s role in the whole issue? Has it not in a way lent a degree of support to your campaign against the government on the issue of nuclear deal?
We do not have to synchronise our cause with the Left. The Left is a partner to the government, dictating to it. The Left’s onus is thus far more that of the BJP’s. It is the Left which is supporting the government and the blame (for the political crisis at the Centre over the nuclear deal) has to be equally apportioned even if it (Left) is not part of the government. It cannot speak against the government and at the same time support it. The Left has lost its credibility over the last couple months. Ask the common man on the street about the Left, he would say the same.
But it seems nobody is speaking about mid-term elections now. What is your take on this?
The timing may be a month plus or minus but the Lok Sabha polls are impending. Now it seems the timing of the Lok Sabha elections would not be the prerogative of the Left because they are backing out. Because the Congress feels possibly their stand has been strengthened and vindicated. But whatever be the outcome of this standoff between the Left and the Congress, mid-term polls are imminent, possibly next year and within the next six months.
What are the chances of the BJP-led NDA coming back to power in the event of a mid-term election?
The BJP is much more fairly placed now. The fact is that the BJP remains the second pole of the Indian politics. In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections the BJP was just five seats less than the Congress party. We still have governments in nine states and are the main opposition party in another nine. This proves that the BJP is the main national opposition party. And we stand a fair chance of forming the next government at the Centre.
But with senior BJP leader Mr LK Advani himself recently admitting to differences among leaders within the party and a revolt brewing in Gujarat and Rajasthan, how realistic are you about your claims to coming back to power at the Centre?
But having differences is part of the internal democracy in the BJP. This is a part of the political system. There are aspirations and disagreements to contend with. We have been able to successfully handle such situations in the past. The party is well equipped to handle such issues. It is all part of the political process. As the party is growing problems are bound to crop up. The BJP leadership is quite capable of handling any situation.
But are there not different centres of power in the party today?
We are not a family-based party. Today, there are no two words about it, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee is our foremost leader. And, after him it is Mr LK Advani. And there are no two voices about it. There are no centres of power in the BJP. We have no paucity of leadership. It is not a family party like Miss Mayawati’s BSP. She is the ideologue of her party and there is nothing beyond her. Mr Lalu Prasad, Mr Mulayam Singh are ideologues of their respective RJD and SP parties, there is nothing beyond them in their parties. The BJP is a structured party with a very pronounced ideology.
So Mr Vajpayee would be the party’s prime ministerial candidate in the next Lok Sabha elections?
God willing, that should be the situation.
For someone who is young and has been a minister in the Vajpayee government and currently placed after the gen-next category of leadership, where do you find yourself in the party and what lies ahead for you?
If you see the party hierarchy today, the first top line comprises Mr Vajapyee, Mr Advani, Mr Jaswant Singh and Mr Murli Manohar Joshi. The second very visible line of leadership comprises Mr Venkaiah Naidu, Mr Arun Jaitley, Mr Rajnath Singh, Mrs Sushma Swaraj and Mr Narendra Modi. And in the third line too there is a distinguished line-up of leaders like Mr Raman Singh in Chattisgarah, Ms Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan, Mr Shahnawaz Hussain or Mr Ravishankar Prasad or may be me in a small way. We don’t have a paucity of leadership.
I came all the way from Bihar and then studied out and went back to Bihar to become an MLA. The advantage with the BJP is that an opportunity is offered to you, if you display ability. It is not like the Congress party where everyone is put on hold till the coronation of crown prince Rahul Gandhi.
If you say that the BJP has no paucity of leaders then why is the party still waiting for a leader of the statures of Mr Vajpayee, Mr Advani or Mr Joshi to emerge out of its so-called nursery of young and talented leaders?
Our fame is Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, Mr LK Advani, Mr Jaswant Singh. When the time comes the party will look forward to projecting the second generation of leaders. So I think whatever is being offered to the young leaders is more than enough. It is good for all, good for the party.
Are you satisfied with the way the aviation industry is being taken forward by your successor in the present government?
The boom in the aviation sector today was triggered by the NDA government in 2003 with the launch of low-cost airlines. We wanted the pressure of the demand in the sector to create infrastructure. We wanted to create a demand to ensure benefits to the air passengers. The biggest danger visible today again is cartelisation, which was struck off during the NDA regime. The prices of tickets are going up again. There is none to speak out against it. This is what (cartelisation) we broke with a great effort in 2003 to make air travel affordable for the common man. With the merger of Deccan with Kingfisher, merger of Jet and Sahara and merger of Indian Airlines and Air India, the cartelisation has emerged. The government is simply falling in line. The aviation industry is saying the air companies are suffering losses. It is none of the government’s concern. The government is here to facilitate and not shed tears on the losses of airlines, which is hyperbole and incorrect.
What would you have liked to become if not a politician serving the BJP?
Destiny has played a very important part in my career. I thought of becoming a pilot. I have just picked up my commercial pilot licence and become eligible to fly commercial airlines. No one picks up a commercial pilot licence (CPL) at the age of 45. I will be perhaps the first civil aviation minister to have picked up a CPL. I am enrolled as a lawyer in Patna High Court. I am a lecturer in a university in Bihar. I could not practice as a lawyer or teach due to my political engagements. I am a full-time politician now. So I would not know what other profession would have been appropriate for me.
(The interviewer is Special Representative of The Statesman, New Delhi)