BJP can’t claim Patel legacy: Sibal
Sibal: BJP Can’t Claim Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Legacy, There is an unsavoury debate on the legacy of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
How confident are you of the Congress forming the UPA-III Government?
Media had written off the Congress in 2004, focusing on the Shining India campaign of the BJP. We proved the media wrong, by wresting power from the BJP. Again in 2009, media made it clear that the Congress had no prospect of retaining power. Once again, we proved the media wrong by storming back to power with increased number of seats, which I personally think is a record of sorts. Media, as usual, is again carried away by the so-called Modi Wave and even before the election, it has written off the Congress. A wave is pervasive and there is an undercurrent, like it was for Indira Gandhi in 1971 and 1980. Now Modi is being aggressively ‘sold’ as a commodity to the people. People are very conscious and will see through the design and foil the saffron party’s designs.
How do you view Modi’s bid to appropriate Patel legacy?
There is an unsavoury debate on the legacy of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who was a Congressman to the core and stoutly opposed the divisive ideology of the RSS. In a sense, his attitude reflected the core values of a secular India. Sardar Patel as Home Minister banned the RSS on February 4, 1948. The ban was imposed “to root out the forces of hate and violence that are at work in our country and imperil the freedom of the nation and darken her fair name.” It went on to say that individual members of RSS indulged in “acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunition. They have been found circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect firearms, to create disaffection against the government.” Despite the ban RSS continued its anti-national activities. This is reflected in Patel’s letter written to M S Golwalkar on September 18, 1948, when he lamented that the communal poison of speeches made by votaries of RSS resulted in the country having to “suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji.” In his letter of February 27, 1948, Patel talked of how Gandhiji’s assassination was welcomed by RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha, which were strongly opposed to his way of thinking.
So you feel that Patel legacy cannot be appropriated by the BJP/RSS?
It is unfortunate that the BJP seeks to rewrite history, by suggesting that Patel had invited the RSS to join Congress. Patel was an Indian first and a Congressman thereafter. What is unfortunate is that 66 years thereafter, a mindset similar to that of the RSS, if not more visceral, is seeking to embrace a secular Patel. That, too, by not just misreading history but by emphasising Patel’s credentials as a Gujarati. It is ironic that the man, who seeks to build the Statue of Unity, is perhaps the most divisive force in India.
Are you sure of your win in Chandni Chowk?
Yes, I am confident of winning for a third consecutive term in the Lok Sabha, by winning from Chandni Chowk. The people of Chandni Chowk will embrace, like they did all along. For each of the Assembly segments I have brought out separate booklets showcasing the work I have done. As four Assembly constituencies are Minority-dominated, these booklets have been brought out in Urdu. By profession I am a lawyer and as such I have the habit of keeping records, although my opponents have the proverbial short-memory. I visited Chandni Chowk 570 times and held 117 official meetings. Yet, the Opposition says I neglected my constituency. There is a campaign that there is an increase in my property. The point is that my father passed away, bequeathing ancestral property. I have made no new investments nor have I made any new acquisitions.
Do you perceive a transformed Modi?
This is the concerted campaign that is going on, of showcasing Modi as development icon. Modi can never sustain that image, as intrinsically he has a completely contrarian agenda. When Congress president Sonia Gandhi confronted Modi with his divisive agenda, he betrayed the lack of poise by attacking back to the foreign origins issue, which the people of India roundly rejected.
Modi is said to have expressed pain?
Pain is always felt in the heart and spontaneous. Pain is an emotion that is expressed without calculation. Pain can never be a belated reaction after 11 years of silence. And a person who suffers in silence cannot remain silent for 11 years. While I do not want to be cynical in my comments, I do not want to be dishonest either. Where was Modi’s pain when the Gujarat Government defended those, who now stand convicted? Where was the pain when affidavits about their innocence were filed in courts? Where was the pain, when lawyers were paid for defending the indefensible? Where was the pain when the Gujarat Government did not reach out to those crying for help? Where was the pain, when those seeking justice were left out in the cold? Where was the pain when the Gujarat Government was collaborating with the accused to settle their affidavits, while they were being prosecuted in the court?
You don’t think Modi has adequately regretted for Gujarat riots in 2002?
Modi’s riots baggage will remain. It is too late for him to express that he was shaken to the core. Had that been so, the core would have reacted in time, not a belated reaction just before the Lok Sabha elections. It is the harrowing ordeal of the victims, and not that of Modi that needs attention.
How do you view the role of media?
Uninformed opinion based on fiction not facts poses a great danger to democracy. The media is the only effective vehicle for information. In that sense, it has perhaps the most important role to play in the future of democratic India. It should encourage informed opinion and challenge the uninformed. It cannot be the shrill voice on the street. It must emerge as an empowered voice of reasoned opinion.
Media should be the vehicle that informs all institutions. It cannot be seen to be partisan, politically or otherwise. It must allow contrary views to be aired and give space to all informed opinions. It should eschew agendas. Its adulteration will provide the seeds that diminish democracy. Its purity will enhance democracy. It must, therefore, develop inbuilt mechanism of accountability to ensure, to the extent possible its purity.
How does the Congress react to the Modi challenge?
An exclusivist world view that he has will not help him. That is why the Congress has an inclusive world view. There is no other nation in the world, which presents the kind of challenges that we are confronted with in India, as we experiment with and make robust our democratic processes. There is no nation in the world, which has almost all races represented: Aryan, Caucasian, Mongoloid, and Dravidian, all in one cauldron. An exclusivist agenda will not do in this background.