The Telegraph – We have a government that is cheating the people: Yashwant Sinha

The former Union minister fears that the idea of India will be in peril if this government returns to power

Sanjay K Jha

Interview, 20 April 2019. Yashwant Sinha, the former senior BJP leader who handled key portfolios such as finance and external affairs in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, has been a bitter critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the last couple of years.

Sinha suspects that the black money that was not supposed to come back into the system post-demonetisation was brought in by unscrupulous elements by illegally exchanging every dirty rupee for a cut.

He also sees a similarity between the “Modi-Modi” chant and the “Heil Hitler” cry of Nazi Germany and fears that the idea of India will be in peril if this government returns to power. Sinha spoke to Sanjay K Jha of The Telegraph.


The Telegraph: Yashwant Sinha, a BJP stalwart in the Vajpayee era, is an important voice of opposition in the Modi regime. What caused the transformation?

Yashwant Sinha: I have a natural knack of understanding people and their motives. I had figured out even before 2014 that Narendra Modi will not be a good Prime Minister. He had already shown tendencies of an autocrat, in the manner in which he dealt with his senior colleagues in Gujarat. I decided not to contest the 2014 election.

When the council of ministers was formed, he acted in a funny manner. Arun Jaitley had lost the election but he was rewarded with two huge ministries, finance and defence. Somebody was made a minister of state with independent charge in one ministry, a subordinate in another ministry.

Very important portfolios were handed over to ministers of state, like commerce and petroleum, in which ministers have an international role, apart from national role. All these oddities were not pointed out by the media. Then strangely, it was pointed out that nobody above 75 could be a minister. When was this decision taken by the party?

Did the parliamentary board take the decision, did the national executive take the decision? Was this decision, like every other decision, taken by one person? Be that as it may, at a function in Mumbai, a reporter asked me whether I had given my advice to the PM on a certain issue.

I said the PM does not need the advice of a person like me because in the BJP, all those who are above 75 are considered to be brain-dead. I was told the PM didn’t take kindly to this comment and the distance between me and the party continued to grow.

Come 2017, I felt that things were seriously wrong with this government and I will be less than true to my country if I don’t speak out. Economy, cabinet, judiciary, Election Commission, media, other vital institutions of democracy, everything was mismanaged, undermined, controlled. The planned devaluation of institutions was the biggest danger to our polity.

Ministers appeared to have lost their relevance. There was no collective decision-making. The PM was treating Parliament with disdain; he was treating Parliament as a necessary nuisance. The Aadhaar bill was passed as a money bill, extraneous issues were included in the Finance Bill. A complete mess was made of parliamentary conventions.

We all know how the RBI and CBI were compromised. There are many other things about which we don’t know. Look at the way the media is behaving. Some TV channels have aptly been described as North Korean; anchors there are loudspeakers of the government. Media is the only means through which information reaches the people.

Now people are subjected to untruths and misinformation on a daily basis. There are shouts of Modi-Modi even when he is not present. Modi-Modi is reminiscent of Heil Hitler in Nazi Germany. Nobody in the BJP will advise him to give up the perilous path.

The mental make-up of this man was reflected in the manner in which he dealt with his benefactor L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. So after this long explanation, the short answer is that the BJP is not what it was, it is a completely unrecognisable creature today.

TT: Should age be a factor in the political sphere? Even if some veterans are sent into the Margdarshak Mandal, they can be used as a think-tank and to groom younger talent. Why were senior leaders treated so badly in BJP?

Sinha: What is the age of the attorney-general of the country, 86. He has to stand in the court daily and argue cases. Somebody like Sumitra Mahajan, who just turned 76, is discarded as deadwood. So this is an untenable theory to begin with. The other is the point that you made.

Ok, you retire them but they are available for consultation. Institutional memory, what happened in the past, is a very important input. This can come easily from people having experience in governance. Seniors are happy to give advice. But if you think you are not only all-powerful but know-all, then …

TT: There is another perspective. That you were only a bureaucrat and didn’t even have RSS roots. The BJP gave you so much and then made your son a minister. But you betrayed the party.

Sinha: Yeah, this kind of argument will cut ice with the people. Politics is the art of give and take. Nobody does any favour to anyone without getting anything in return. I had a good run in the BJP under Vajpayee and Advani but perhaps I deserved it. I gave whatever I had fully and wholly to the BJP.

It was not that I was brought to the Rajya Sabha like many other BJP leaders, I contested elections. My son replaced me in my constituency and he was made a minister of state. Good for him and good for the government as he is a highly qualified professional. But I was not looking for a compensation, even less a pre-condition to keep quiet.

TT: After being in the BJP for decades and seeing the last five years of Modi, how do you see the RSS philosophy? Is it fundamentally flawed?

Sinha: Yes, it is. I didn’t think much of the RSS even when I joined the BJP. RSS is caught in a time warp. They may have replaced their half pants with trousers, but they are far from being modern. They are an anachronism in this day and age.

TT: Let’s come to elections. Do you think in this splintered form, the Opposition can pull it off?

Sinha: I will not call it splintered. The Opposition has been able to stitch effective alliances in most parts of the country. Nobody expected there will be a one-on-one contest between the Opposition and BJP on all the 543 seats.
States where the BJP had the highest strike rate in 2014, it is engaged in fierce contest. Be it Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, Punjab where the Congress is fighting, or Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Karnataka.

In Uttar Pradesh, the alliance is not complete as the Congress is outside but the feedback is that it is cutting more into the BJP votes rather than the SP-BSP. After the election, most of these parties will come together.

TT: How do you see the conflicting narratives, jobs & justice on one side, Modi & muscular nationalism on the other side?

Sinha: Modi and this muscular nationalism will face a whole lot of local issues and caste. Caste is the biggest antidote to Hindutva. Modi is using this narrative because his government is a signal failure. This is the only government in history which destroyed jobs. What shocks me most is that the government is lying.

TT: Are you talking of data manipulation?

Sinha: Exactly.

TT: Who is responsible for data manipulation? Finance minister, institutions & agencies or the Prime Minister?

Sinha: Prime Minister, nobody else matters in this government.

It worries me no end that we have a government that is cheating the people. There is an element of deceit in every sphere.

TT: Is it a new crisis in India, that the trustworthiness of this government has been so low?

Sinha: Absolutely. It worries me no end that we have a government that is cheating the people. There is an element of deceit in every sphere. The government is telling lies on a daily basis. Now it is exposed internationally. You must have seen what Gita Gopinath of IMF said, that she hoped the Government of India resolves the GDP growth issue.

TT: But despite all this, Modi seems to have preserved his image as a crusader against corruption.

Sinha: He managed it because he controls all the sources of information, including the media. He spent thousands of crores on his personal publicity. He is also denigrating all others. No PM ever did it.

TT: What’s your assessment of demonetisation?

Sinha: Initially I believed, as the attorney-general said in the Supreme Court, that the motive is that three-to-five lakh crore which was the black money in the economy would not come back and then accrue to the government. This will be a huge bonanza for the government.

Now, the evidence which is surfacing, it appears that it was far more sinister. They were not thinking of this amount of five lakh crore accruing to the government. They in fact appeared to have this amount of black money at a discount of 30 to 40 per cent. And this money appears to have gone into the private pockets of BJP functionaries.

The point is where has the black money gone? The entire black money has come back into the system because people ensured it was exchanged illegally. This is one of the first inquiries which should be ordered by a new government if the government changes.

TT: Do you have any doubts about the EVMs?

Sinha: I have serious doubts. There is evidence that whenever EVMs have malfunctioned, votes have gone to the BJP. Collectors have been shifted because of such malfunctioning. Even if this is happening accidentally, it suggests EVMs can be manipulated. Why should we shy away from counting more number of VVPAT slips? What is the problem of the EC?

TT: What happens if the BJP comes back?

Sinha: The idea of India as we have known it will stand completely destroyed. Countries have come out of such disasters in the past, like Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, but every country had to pay a very heavy price.

The Tribune – Board outside Takht raises eyebrows

GS Paul, Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 18 April 2019. A yellow board outside Akal Takht has provoked curiosity in devotees. It proclaims that except for ‘patits’ (Sikhs with shorn hair) and those awarded ‘tankhah‘ (ex-communicated), anyone, irrespective of religion, can offer ‘ardas’ at the Takht. This norm is not new. The question is what has prompted its reiteration.

It is learnt that there was a board at Akal Takht prior to 1984 which went missing after Operation Bluestar. Akal Takht acting Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh could not be contacted, despite several attempts. His PA Jaswinder Singh said the board had been installed recently with identical ones at Takht Damdama Sahib and Takht Kesgarh Sahib too.

As per the Sikh Rehat Maryada, only an amritdhari (baptised Sikh) can enter the hallowed Takht enclosure. However, “ardas (prayer)” on behalf of any Sikh, except a tankhaiya, and non-Sikh can be offered at the Takht.

Only Gursikhs can be summoned for religious misconduct. In 2014, Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu was accused of distorting ‘Gurbani’. It was demanded that he be summoned by the Takht. Since Sidhu was not a Gursikh, this was not done.

SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal said he had been away for the past two days and didn’t know about the new board. Golden Temple manager Jaswinder Singh Deenpur also expressed ignorance.

“There used to be a board there earlier, but it must have been worn out and replaced with a new one. It is a known fact that prayers can be performed on behalf of non-Sikhs,” he added.

Former Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh could not recall if there was any such board before. “The Sikh Rehat maryada does not bar non-Sikhs from performing ‘ardas’. But I have observed that non-Sikhs are hesitant to perform ‘ardas’ at Akal Takht”, he said.

Bosnia – Sarajevo and Blagaj

Marsala Tita Market
08 April 2019

Yellow tram !

Green with advertising

A bit of Farsi for a change

Tekija Blagaj
Tekke Derwish House
09 April 2019

The river Buna flooding the terrace

The river Buna – bridge for pedestrians

The Tekija Blagaj

More Bosnian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

DNA India, Lok Sabha Election 2019: Sikh hardliner Bibi Jagir Kaur gets Khadoor Sahib

The controversial politician who is three-time MLA, will have her first outing as a Lok Sabha candidate.

Embattled with internal strife, an ailing Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has fielded staunch Badal loyalist and Sikh hardliner face Bibi Jagir Kaur for Khadoor Sahib constituency in Punjab.

The controversial politician who is three-time MLA, will have her first outing as a Lok Sabha candidate, and is seen as the party’s decisive blow to rebel sitting MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura who broke away and formed his own faction SAD (Taksali) in December.

Kaur has a lot riding on her shoulders, right from debuting as a Parliamentary candidate to wooing the vote bank as she does not belong to the segment. Khadoor Sahib is an important bastion, being the largest constituency and one that spans across all the three belts of the state, Majha, Doaba and Malwa.

She is SAD face also to counter the sharp criticism the provincial party has been facing among Sikh voters as well as SGPC because of alleged mishandling of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib in 2015. Kaur, a staunch Akali enjoys close ties with the Panthic clergy. She was the first woman president of Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).

Thrice MLA from Bholath in Kapurthala is also one of the most controversial faces in the Akali Dal. She has courted several controversies in her two decade long political career, the most prominent being alleged abduction, and murder of her daughter Harpreet.

Born and brought up in Bhatnura Lubana village in Kapurthala district, she has been closely associated with Dera Sant Baba Prem Singh Murale Wale at Begowal in Kapurthala having married the son of the dera head in 1980.

After the death of her husband in 1983, she formally appointed herself as the head of the dera which helped her gain considerable influence in the Sikh dominant bastion of Lubana.

She joined SAD in 1995 and soon grew her stature in the party. She was allotted ministerial berth in the SAD government in 1997 after she won from Bholath.

In 1999 she became the first woman chief of the apex gurudwara body but was forced to resign in 2000 after she was accused of murdering Harpreet for marrying out of caste. In 2002 she won from Bholath again but lost in 2007 to Sukhpal Singh Khaira.

She captured the seat again in 2012 and was inducted in the SAD cabinet. Her stint however, was short lived as she was convicted of abducting, conspiring and forcibly terminating her daughter’s pregnancy. The orders came just 17 days after her swearing in. She was recently acquitted by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The Hindu – Saffron error: Pragya Singh’s candidacy

The BJP seems to have fielded Pragya Singh Thakur for all the wrong reasons

Op/Ed, 20 April 2019. Pragya Singh Thakur may not be the first person to contest in an election despite facing serious charges, but her candidacy on behalf of the BJP in the Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency stands out as exceptionally controversial.

She is arraigned as the prime accused and principal conspirator behind the September 2008 blast at Malegaon, in which six persons were killed. In other words, a person accused of a ‘terrorist act’ and against whom charges have been framed under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is being fielded as a candidate, by a party that wants to underscore its anti-terrorism credentials.

While many candidates may have criminal cases pending against them, it is highly unusual to find among mainstream party contestants one who has been accused of planting a bomb targeting a community. An obvious problem with Pragya Singh’s candidacy is that she appears to have been chosen solely as a totemic representative of aggressive Hindutva nationalism.

She was not prominent as a BJP member until she was named the candidate for Bhopal, where she will take on senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh. It is one thing to field a political leader who faces criminal charges, but quite another to create an electoral candidate out of a key terror suspect.

It would appear that the sole purpose of fielding her is to bolster the BJP’s narrative that there never has been any ‘Hindu’ or ‘saffron’ terror group. Two blasts at Malegaon (2006 and 2008), the Samjhauta Express bombing near Panipat (February 2007), the explosions at Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad (May 2007) and the Ajmer Dargah (October 2007) were linked to a fringe Hindu group called ‘Abhinav Bharat’, but the NIA had neither the political backing nor the ability to obtain convictions.

To no one’s surprise, Ms. Singh lost little time in embarrassing the BJP by making serious allegations against the chief of the Mumbai Police Anti-Terrorist Squad, Hemant Karkare, who was martyred in the 26/11 terror attack.

Election law as it stands today does not bar one facing criminal charges from contesting, except those convicted of specified classes of offences, or those that entail a sentence of at least two years.

If the mere pendency of a case was made a ground for disqualification, a vindictive regime could get any political opponent disqualified by merely slapping a criminal charge.

However, given the tortuous process of taking a criminal prosecution to its conclusion, some have made a case for advancing the stage at which disqualification kicks in, by making a legislative change to rule out of the contest any person against whom charges have been framed by a competent court.

It may be difficult to get enough lawmakers to agree to this significant change, but it can be a principle political parties adopt on their own. There have been instances of Union Ministers resigning from office as soon as charges were framed against them. There is no harm in extending this norm to the selection of candidates.