New Delhi: In an exclusive interview to NDTV, Sushma Swaraj has said that if the BJP did plan a sting to prove that the Congress was willing to buy MPs to survive a trust vote in 2008, "there's nothing wrong with that." However, she said that it is incorrect that her party's leaders or members are guilty of entrapment, and that the party is open to an investigation of its role in what's known as the "cash-for-votes" controversy. Ms Swaraj told NDTV's Barkha Dutt that she stands by her demand for a CBI inquiry into the cash-for-votes allegation. Her own party's role, she said, can and should be scrutinized too because "we know the truth will come out even if they inquire that."
Here's the full transcript of the interview:
Barkha Dutt: Another fiery session of Parliament is drawing to a close and we've seen actually some very high calibre debates inside Parliament making all of us glued to our television screens. It has been another session where the Opposition has put the UPA on the defensive. But towards the end, the UPA seems to come up with its own counter-defensive as well. Leading the assault on the government, and making several memorable interventions and speeches in this session of Parliament and even the one which went before has been the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Sushma Swaraj is now joining us at the end of the very tiring session I imagine, ma'am.
Sushma Swaraj: Not tiring, enjoyable.
Barkha Dutt: What was enjoyable about it? Because, for us, it was interesting to watch high quality debate return to Parliament.
Sushma Swaraj: See, we always enjoy when the session functions, when the House functions, when the session runs, when the House runs. Because last session, we could not do anything. So anyway, that session upset us also. This time, the enjoyable thing was there were debates. They wanted debates, they were doing debate. So, it is very very enjoyable for us.
Barkha Dutt: And I will come to the serious questions later, but I want to start with the one moment that everybody is talking about today. Kesher-o-shaayari to bahut huyi, pehle Sushmaji, phir Pradhan Mantri. What was that moment about? Because many people felt that at the end of such an explosive debate, we saw the smile come on your face when the PM threw an Urdu couplet your way.
Sushma Swaraj: Yes. Because I concluded my speech with a couplet. Couplet was very combative. Very very combative. Tu idhar udhar ki na baat kar, yeh bata ki kaafila kyun loota. Hamein rehzalur se garaz nahin, yeh rehbari ka sawaal hai. That means it is you who is accountable. Don't do wishy-washy. Don't say he is responsible, he is responsible, but I am not responsible. You were leading the kaafila. You tell us why it was looted by daakus, rehzal means daakus. We have nothing to do with those daakus, with those rehzals. The question is of your leadership. And this couplet was preceded by my statement. The people of the country are fed up with such kind of answers, I do not know anything, there is a coalition compulsion, I am not as guilty as is being shown. I wanted direct answers from you Mr. Prime Minister and that too through a couplet. So, that couplet was very very combative.
Barkha Dutt: His was not combative, his was more ironic, understated, humorous.
Sushma Swaraj: His was not combative, that is the beauty of it. My couplet was combative.
Barkha Dutt: But it had humour.
Sushma Swaraj: It had humour and it had a sort of pleading.
Barkha Dutt: It was a sort of way of saying...
Sushma Swaraj:Maana ki teri deed ke kaabil nahi hoon mein. Admittedly, that I am not worthy of being in your sight. Mera shouk to dekh, mera intzaar to dekh. See my obsession, see my..
Barkha Dutt: Passion
Sushma Swaraj: Patience. It was not a very maakul jise kehte hai, very appropriate one. But it had a charm.
Barkha Dutt: You did find it charming.
Sushma Swaraj: I found it charming.
Barkha Dutt: Because we all saw you smiling...
Sushma Swaraj: Yes, I did smile.
Barkha Dutt: Do you think it was an appropriate and a very graceful ending to what had been a very fiery exchange between the Opposition and the government?
Sushma Swaraj: I think so. Because it cooled the tempers.
Barkha Dutt: ... which is nice for us to watch that you say the honest things, you say all the tough things, but you are able to be graceful at the end of it...
Sushma Swaraj: That is the beauty of democracy, Barkha. Because our opposition is on the basis of policies, programmes, or on the basis of ideologies. We don't take it too personal.
Barkha Dutt: Now, let's get to the specifics. Let me first ask you, at the end of this session, what do you feel the most satisfied about? You made many interventions, you led many of the Opposition campaigns against the government. On many of the issues you raised, the Opposition has managed to get the government to concede, whether it is the JPC issue, the CVC issue is now being decided by the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister accepted the responsibility there. What has been your most satisfying moment or achievement at the end of this session?
Sushma Swaraj: Well, some of the issues you yourself have identified. For example, our demand of JPC was granted. Then on CVC, we scored our victory in the Supreme Court. My stand was vindicated. But apart from these, I could raise some issues of human interest. For example, sailors issue. Sailors have been kidnapped by Somalian pirates, that issue. And I could take those sailors' families to the Prime Minister, to the Speaker. And after that, 13 plus 11, 24 sailors had been released, and government is on the job, that one issue. Sri Lankan fishermen issue, then these tobacco products issue. So, I could raise many issues of human interest. I think that satisfied me the most this time.
Barkha Dutt: Even more than the political, in a sense, achievements or concessions that you were able to get from the government?
Sushma Swaraj: See, political issues are always in our armour. And that is expected of us. But raising these human interest issues and taking them to the logical conclusion, that added to that.
Barkha Dutt: I must ask you because I follow you on Twitter, and you have used your Twitter page to raise a number of these, both political and social, issues. In fact, you first proposed capital punishment for rapists, I did a whole programme on that idea. You spoke about the sailors issue and all of that. How and why did you decide to come on Twitter?
Sushma Swaraj: Twitter is a great instrument to communicate with in very few words. Communication is all about... that it gives easy accessibility first of all. Then, the speed with which you can communicate. So, communication is all about speed. Tomorrow it will become baasi.
Barkha Dutt: And some other thing will come...
Sushma Swaraj: Some other thing will overtake it. So, on Twitter, you can respond quickly, and with so many people at a stretch.
Barkha Dutt: Do you manage to read and respond yourself or do you have somebody to do it for you?
Sushma Swaraj: No, I have kept a time. There are two accounts of mine. One account is only for journalists, that is Mrs Sushma Swaraj. Another account is a general account. Early morning at 7.30, I see the Twitter myself. I take the questions, I answer them. And when I come for lunch, I see the Twitter. I also take two-three questions that time and then in the night. So, I have managed my time accordingly. My first account is being operated by my PS, but whatever I tweet on my first account, I ask him to re-tweet on the second account.
Barkha Dutt: Now, in India, because we are still getting used to it in the political culture, still adapting these new methods of communication, politicians sometimes get into trouble because of Twitter. We know Shashi Tharoor, BJP remembers that. But when you wrote about the CVC issue, many people wrote saying, that Sushma Swaraj had expressed a divergent opinion from her party. Phir aap ne clarify kiya, ki this is not the case. You were constrained by the number of words. But do you feel that this particular issue pointed to some serious differences in the thinking within the BJP, as many people suggest that Sushma Swaraj is willing to be gentler and kinder on the UPA? Though I can tell you, hearing your speeches it doesn't sound that way. But, yeh suggestion baar baar aata hai that Sushma Swaraj is more willing to forgive and forget and move on. And that is what the CVC tweet suggested.
Sushma Swaraj: My response is always issue-based. On that case, I thought the matter should be raised.
Barkha Dutt: And you stand by that...
Sushma Swaraj: I genuinely felt that. But I was overruled by my party president. I admit that. So, there is no question of divergent views. I hold that my view that after the PM accepted the responsibility, and that too in the House, I asked him to say so. Otherwise he was getting away. In the House, he was not saying that. He said it in the Jammu press conference. He was not saying it in the House. He had not mentioned it in his statement. I got up and asked him, 'are you deviating from your Jammu statement, are you disowning that?' He got up and said, 'I am not disowning the Jammu statement, this was obviously an error of judgement and I take the full responsibility.' On that, my response was that the matter should take rest. But my president thought otherwise. Maybe he must have talked to other party members. But I admit that I was overruled. So, whatever he stated became the party line and he said it in so many words. When journalists asked him what is the party line, he said I am the party chief, I am saying this, this is the party line.
Barkha Dutt: When he said this...
Sushma Swaraj: This is the party line..
Barkha Dutt: Did you feel put down and snubbed in public, when he said that?
Sushma Swaraj: No, not at all. Many times Atalji, Advaniji have been overruled. They hold some view, party had some other view. So, that's why I did not like the word snubbing. Some papers used I was snubbed. I was overruled.
Barkha Dutt: It also suggested that you had tears in your eyes because you were that upset.
Sushma Swaraj: No, I tell you Barkha, that picture is not of that press conference.
Barkha Dutt: No, that was clarified later.
Sushma Swaraj: That was the biggest mistake or mischief, what should I say? That picture was of some other meeting. That picture was not of that press conference. But if you make two plus two, that the picture and the press conference, and give the headlines as snubbing, it becomes haywire.
Barkha Dutt: But the fact is you were publicly contradicted by your party president on this issue.
Sushma Swaraj: I am saying I am admitting it that I was overruled.
Barkha Dutt: Did that make you feel that you wish he had said it to you in private instead of saying it in public?
Sushma Swaraj: See, maybe it was party's point, which he wanted to say, and in our hierarchy, party president is number one. So, whatever he said, became the party line. My opinion was that after PM accepted the responsibility, because in 64 years, I did not hear any other prime minister accepting full responsibility. If he accepted the responsibility, my prompt reaction was that the matters should rest. But the party president took another line that became the party line. And I admit it publicly, I am admitting that I've been overruled by my party president.
Barkha Dutt: So, you are saying your personal opinion even today remains the same, but you were overruled by the party leadership?
Sushma Swaraj: Now, I am also bound by the party line, which the party president decided that day or declared that day.
Barkha Dutt: Many people say that in that moment, when you said, 'now I think we should move on.' We are seeing Sushma Swaraj is a new persona. That as the Leader of Opposition, you believe your persona now must be different from what it was when you were a politician of the Opposition. Do you self-consciously feel in a sense that your persona has to be different, now that there is a greater maturity...that there is a greater moderation now expected from the Leader of the Opposition?
Sushma Swaraj: Not at all. I have all along been like this. I will give you two instances. I like to remind you when Gavit... in the instance of Gavit, when Zee telecast some speech of his and said that it is his speech and they were putting him in the dock. I got up in Rajya Sabha, contradicted and said, I know Gavit because he had travelled with me and I know his voice. And I can vouch for him that this was not his voice. I was that time on the Opposition benches there was no need for that. But I thought propriety demanded, and the justice demanded, that I must get up and defend Gavit, because when I knew that, that was not his voice. In Devilalji's time, I was opposed to Devilalji. He had once dismissed me from the Cabinet, but when I became I&B minister, I went to his hour and one.. I&B .. it was a memorial which I named after Devilalji. So, I have all along been like that. I am combative, when there is an issue to be combative. But I have always behaved in a gracious manner, in a dignified manner, when the situation demanded. So, this was one such moment when I said move on, that means there will be other issues, where we will again attack, and may be it is tomorrow, we can take up the S-band issue, we can take up the other issues. Moving on does not mean that forgiving for all times to come. On that issue itself I thought propriety demanded, after the Prime Minister accepting the full responsibility, we should forget it. Tomorrow we will take new matter. And I took new matter yesterday.
Barkha Dutt: That you did. But when Gadkariji raised this with you, did you have a discussion with him? Did you express your disagreement? Did you express different reading on this issue?
Sushma Swaraj: We did not talk at all on this.
Barkha Dutt: Even after he made his public statement...
Sushma Swaraj: No.
Barkha Dutt: Now, two questions. You say you are the same Sushma Swaraj. You were always like this. But the country also remembers the Sushma Swaraj who said she would shave off her head if Sonia Gandhi ever became the Prime Minister. The same country looks at the Leader of the Opposition today, who on occasion, because I read her tweets, has a nice word to say about Pranab Mukherjee, is able to have a friendly conversation with the Congress President every now and then. There are photographs that really captured that. Isn't that Sushma Swaraj and this Sushma Swaraj very different?
Sushma Swaraj: Not at all. Even today I say, If again Mrs Gandhi claims to be the Prime Minister, I'll do the same thing. That is my duty towards the country. That duty I will discharge. But when I became Parliamentary Affairs Minister, I was the first one to go to Mrs Sonia Gandhi's place, residence. Why? Because she was the Leader of the Opposition, I was Parliamentary Affairs Minister. So, that was my grace which I showed and this shaving thing and all this I did in 2004. So, even before that, I had shown the grace and dignity towards Mrs Sonia Gandhi because these are the institutions. Leader of the Opposition is an institution. When I took over as the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, I went to her house, even after taking over as LOP. I went to Rajiv Gandhi ji's samadhi on 21st of May. I went there. So, as regards those vows, I still stand by those vows. That is the political Opposition. That's why I again and again press on this point that my opposition is political, my opposition is on the basis of policies and programmes. Nothing personal. That is a political issue. A foreigner should be made the Prime Minister or not. Even today, if Sonia Gandhi ji again claims to be the Prime Minister, I will do the same thing but on personal note, we are not enemies. She wishes me, I wish her. Even in the House, when we sit. In the House, I wish her and she wishes me. I wish Pranab Mukherjee also. I wish Prime Minister also. These are the institutions. We have to respect these institutions.
Barkha Dutt: And I can't imagine anyone would disagree with that. People feel that Sushma Swaraj is mellowed, she is matured, she is evolved. Do you feel there is no difference in yourself?
Sushma Swaraj: Naturally, age hai...
Barkha Dutt: I don't mean age-wise. But after coming into your role of LOP, you feel a different set of responsibilities?
Sushma Swaraj: That maturity of age is there, maturity of responsibilities is there, but I am telling you the basic thing. My basic persona has all along been the same. My basic persona always been this. Grace and dignity in peace, combative in battle.
Barkha Dutt: But abhi to lagta hai ki hamesha hi battle hai.
Sushma Swaraj: Aisa nahi hai. Aap ne kal aur aaj main dekha. Aaj jab Pawan Bansal ji ne kaha ki mein Joshi ji ka bill wapas le raha hoon, jo Joshi ji ke kehne par apna bill wapas le raha hoon, toh main ne khade ho ke dhanywaad diya. Sailors waale maamle par jab 24 ghante ke andar unhone meeting kar ke saamne rakha hai SM Krishna ji ne five-point formula, toh maine use dhanyawaad kiya. Toh aisa nahi.
Barkha Dutt: How would you describe your equation with the prime minister and the Congress president today? You had to clarify rumours that you've been invited by the prime minister to his house for dinner...
Sushma Swaraj: But that was such a blatant lie. Not even an oral invitation, what to talk of hosting of a dinner with the family and that too by cancelling all the engagements, by keeping Prithviraj Chavan out of his home and hosting dinner with me. It was a blatant lie. But they are normal, they are civil. My relationships with all the Congressmen, with the prime minister are civil. They are normal.
Barkha Dutt: So, political opposition, no personal enmity is your philosophy.
Sushma Swaraj: That's my philosophy.
Barkha Dutt: Now, arising out of this whole CVC issue, you have accepted that your party president overruled you. Were you told, and can you set the record straight on this, were you told to not tweet on policy issues?
Sushma Swaraj: Not at all. And first of I must tell you, I never tweet on policy issues. Even that was not the policy issue. That was my reaction on PM's statement. I was getting phone calls, frantic phone calls from journalists that PM has spoken this in Jammu, what is your reaction. I said let me watch on TV and then I will give the reaction. So, I wrote my reaction on Twitter. That was also my reaction and I don't think Twitter is an instrument where you can write policy. I have not been instructed like anything. So, one thing I must clarify, my relation with Nitinji or with Arunji is not that of giving instructions. We can give suggestions to each other, we can talk over issues. But not that somebody will give instructions to me. So, that is not the relationship.
Barkha Dutt: It's not a relationship of authority or ordering, is that what you are saying?
Sushma Swaraj: Yes, it's not that. We can suggest to each other.
Barkha Dutt: So, has it been suggested to you that you should tweet less?
Sushma Swaraj: No, not at all.
Barkha Dutt: Or more carefully...
Sushma Swaraj: Why should I tweet less? That is my thing. For example, this blatant lie was printed, it was published in one daily newspaper. Immediately, I had to contradict. So, with one tweet, I could reach 30 thousand people. In one tweet, I could reach 400 journalists. So, Twitter is an instrument for whatever falsehood is being spread. You can contradict that.
Barkha Dutt: So, no suggestions to you contrary to media reports that you had been asked to think before you write something on Twitter?
Sushma Swaraj: How can one say that? Am I writing thoughtlessly?
Barkha Dutt: No, because there was a disagreement with the thought
Sushma Swaraj: Think before, what do you mean ..?
Barkha Dutt: Be more cautious
Sushma Swaraj: No, nothing.
Barkha Dutt: Or be more diplomatic about party issues...
Sushma Swaraj: Nothing
Barkha Dutt: So, that was completely false, that suggestion.
Barkha Dutt: Let us come back to what happened in the Parliament. We saw the opposition led by you in the Lok Sabha, Arun Jaitley in the Rajya Sabha really in the sense putting the government on the mat again and again. But we also saw a counter of offensive after a long time launched by the UPA. One of the key things that they have suggested is that this cash-for-votes issue, on which you also served a privilege notice to the Prime Minister, you all asked for a short discussion on it. The UPA now say that this was a sting operation orchestrated, master-minded by the BJP. The main person involved in it Suhendra Kulkarni says," Yes, I see it as a whistle blowing operation and that they had the sanction of the top leadership". Sushma ji does that not change to some degree , not the eventual accountability of the UPA if there was bribery but that that not change the morality issues of the debate if the principal of opposition party is in a stage managing a sting operation?
Sushma Swaraj: See, there are two things. First of all in my speech I did not raise this issue at all. If you had watched the debate yesterday I did not raise this issue at all of the sting operation. My questions that was only from the PM's statement. But Arun ji, Arun ji clarified this in his speech in Rajya Sabha and he asked the question. A counter question. What is wrong in this? If our MPs, our party MPs come and complain to us and they say that we are that we are being approached that we are being given money and then somebody from the party says that "okay you catch some media person and ask them to take it on the camera so that we can prove it with photographs that this was being done and ask what is wrong in this?" And I think that he argued very vehemently and with..his best skills. He argued this in the Rajya Sabha. What is wrong in this?
Barkha Dutt: So are you saying even if this was a sting operation in which the BJP's top leadership was involved in planning it...there is nothing wrong.
Sushma Swaraj: There is nothing wrong in this.
Barkha Dutt: The suggestions have been made..
Sushma Swaraj: It was only exposing. Whatever the party, the ruling party was doing, BJP was exposing that. What is wrong in this?
Barkha Dutt: Because according to the Tehelka story..Tehelka argues that it was not that the BJP MPs were approached by the UPA. It was the other way around. The BJP people were calling-up people frantically saying," Humein kharid lo"
Sushma Swaraj: No. That is a total total lie. It is a blatant lie.
Barkha Dutt: That is on the account of Tehelka...account of Tehelka based reporter who did the sting operation.
Sushma Swaraj: It is a blatant lie. It is a blatant lie. It is a blatant lie.
Barkha Dutt: So you are saying that it is not as if that the BJP MPs were trying to lay an entrapment and offering themselves for seat.
Sushma Swaraj: Not at all. Not at all. Not at all.
Barkha Dutt: Tehelka says that it has phone-transcripts to prove that.
Sushma Swaraj: No no, I don't think..I don't think so.
Barkha Dutt: So, you are saying no entrapment but a sting..but a sting operation.
Sushma Swaraj: Yes! It was a sting operation. It was a sting operation because our party MPs came and complain to us that they were being approached. So only then that this was done.
Barkha Dutt: Suppose it would to turn out based on transcripts that are released eventually that it was BJP's three MPs who decided that they were going to prove that if they laid an entrapment they would offer themselves up for sale. Would that change the debate? Would that prove that it was an entrapment? Suppose it is proved. I mean we do not know right now..it's claimed in the counter tape.
Sushma Swaraj: It's not an entrapment. I am saying it very categorically...it was not an entrapment.
Barkha Dutt: So you believe that this charge by the Congress or the counter-offensive by the Congress or this was a stage manage operation...this was a...?
Sushma Swaraj: Is baseless!
Barkha Dutt: It doesn't change the morality of the debate?
Sushma Swaraj: It does not change the morality of the debate.
Barkha Dutt: Let's come to the WikiLeaks cable. First I want to talk a little bit about WikiLeaks as a principal. Now, what is WikiLeaks? It's a diplomatic cable where somebody is writing either their impression of an issue or their impressions after the conversation. On this particular one Cash-for-Vote some contradictions have been pointed out. Obvious contradictions. Ajit Singh for example did not vote for the UPA which was the principal allegation. Pawan Bansal in his..in his reply in Lok Sabha said that..that the person in question Nachiketa Kapur could have just been boasting that we cannot treat WikiLeaks as a conclusive evidence. How do you respond to that?
Sushma Swaraj: See, first of all I would not like to comment on a colleague who is still a colleague in the house about Mr Ajit Singh. I am only on one thing and which I asked the Prime Minister also. A counter question - what was the enmity between a...this political councillor and the minister whom he is naming in WikiLeaks and why would he do that?! See there is something circumstantial evidence also. This WikiLeaks has come as only corroborative evidence, a very good circumstantial evidence to the allegations which we were levelling that time. I am not on that...who took the money? Who took the money and did not give the vote?? I am not on that because why should I comment on a colleague?!! I am only saying why did that political councillor write this cable?
Barkha Dutt: But it's factually known that he did not vote for the UPA. This was factually known.
Sushma Swaraj: There are so many stories of that also. I don't want to go into that. Mr.Ajit Singh will himself say what was true and what was not true. Why should I say? I am not commenting on that. And I will not like to comment on that. I am only saying that why did that political councillor write this cable? Cable was written by Steven White on the saying of political councillor. Why did he do that? You see the dates. The cable was dated 17th July. The vote took place on the 22nd of July. The cable is narrating an incident. See there are two types of cable. One based on the understanding of the diplomat on the basis of the conversation. Second cable is narration of an incident. This is narration of an incident and he is narrating it as an eye-witness. Not as a hearsay that somebody was telling me. He says," I went to his house - x house- I was shown two chests full of rupees. I was told don't worry..we are on job. We will save the government. We will save the government.
Sushma Swaraj: So, my counter question is what was the enmity between the political councillor who narrated the incident to Steven White and..that minister? whose name he is taking? Now this is narration of an incident that a political councillor says that he went to x's house, he was shown two bags full of money and he was assured that don't worry the government will be saved. This is the money. And just to answer your first question even he said that our worry is not of money. We have enough! Our worry is some people may take money and may not vote. This is also he is writing in the cable. This is also he is writing in the cable. So my counter question is why this cable would be false? Why would somebody send such a cable when he doesn't even know that any day it will see the light of the day or it will be put in the public domain? It was a secret cable. Why would anybody write like that?! That is my question.
Barkha Dutt: But should a cable be treated as conclusive evidence or should it be the beginning of asking some questions?
Sushma Swaraj: No, we are saying that put the names of those people in the F.I.R who have been mentioned in the cable. We are not saying as a conclusive prove that you just hang them
Barkha Dutt: Because even Julian Assange...
Sushma Swaraj: We are saying...we are saying...our CBI enquiry...CBI enquiry on the basis of that report that committee's report as well as this cable. So people who have been named this cable should be made accused in that F.I.R. and then an enquiry or investigation should be done.
Barkha Dutt: The Home Minster speaking in Rajya Sabha did speak about...you know...expanding the enquiry. He also wants to investigate whether BJP Leaders were behind. What they claim is a stage manage sting operation.
Sushma Swaraj: Haan to that this the motive na. That actually that serves their purpose. We say that you name these people also in the F.I.R. This is be an additional F.I.R. These people's name should be added and included as an accused.
Barkha Dutt: But are you willing to have your party's role also investigated? Are you willing to have people who planned to have this sting operation also investigated?
Sushma Swaraj: Sure! Not that I am saying it on camera. Yesterday Yashwant Sinha while speaking said it again and again why don't you enquire into Suhendra Kulkarni's role? Why don't you enquire into the sting operation? And not only by the Delhi police. We are asking for CBI enquiry. That yes...because even we know that the truth will come out even if they investigate that.
Barkha Dutt: WikiLeaks and Yashwant Sinha ji who also spoke about this..also speaks about BJP and in particular it made reference to Mr L K Advani in his meeting with American officials where he suggested what the BJP was saying in public on the nuclear deal was not the same thing as what BJP believed in private. We did not and we still have not seen a denial from L.K.Advani on this. Infact, we saw Yashwant Sinha standing up in the house and saying that Advani ji has accepted this and now you also accept it. Is the BJP then accepting that on their nuclear deal on they are saying one thing in the public and one thing in private?
Sushma Swaraj: This conversation is not attributed to Advani. What is attributed is...
Barkha Dutt: Mr.Sheshadri Chari's conversation......
Sushma Swaraj: No no...yes yes..Sheshadri Chari's conversation cannot be made Advani ji's conversation.
Barkha Dutt: But it's a party member. It's a party member.
Sushma Swaraj: No no no. He is not the party member. I am only saying..So you can't put them on the same pedestal. The conversation attributed to Advani ji is this that government is in continuity. So if this government does this nuclear deal with you.
Barkha Dutt: We wilI not...we will not scrap the deal.
Sushma Swaraj: Even if we...even if we come to power we will not be able to scrap the deal. This is what he said.
Barkha Dutt: But ma'am at that time....
Sushma Swaraj: This..this conversation does not attribute to him.
Barkha Dutt: Okay. Fair enough. But at that time even on that issue the BJP's public position was if we come into power we will review the deal. Now something else was suggested privately. Can you a first set the record on this on the issue of this public/private...we all know....we actually...for those of us who observe politics..We all know that sometimes political rhetoric is exaggerated and parties privately have a more complex position. But the aam janta doesn't understand this. So, they can look at the cable and say that BJP was doing double speaking.
Sushma Swaraj: No. But he was not doing the double speak. Because he was only referring to...he was referring to Shimla agreement also. We were opposed to Shimla agreement. But we could not do anything when we come to...when we came to power. So, this is what he was making him to understand that once this deal is done government is in continuity...when we will come into power we will not be able to scrap this deal. This is what he was saying. The earlier part, he never said.
Barkha Dutt: Is there a danger in giving this much importance to the WikiLeaks cables and I ask you because has the BJP thought for a moment that tomorrow a cable could come which could be embarrassing for the BJP because we all have conversation when we meet people assuming that these will remain private. When we assume a degree of privacy...we say things that we may not say otherwise in public. So, do you believe that there is a bit of danger in giving this much importance to the cables which were based on both people thought was an off the record conversation.
Sushma Swaraj: I have already differentiated between two types of cables. One based on the conversation and sending the assessment through the cable. Another narrating an incident. This cable is narration of an incident. This is not an assessment. Rather Advani ji's cable is based on assessment. Another thing that Advani ji is not denying that because he says that he said that! But I am only saying that danger can be there..it can be a very-very dangerous path. If you take as the gospel truth a cable... a cable based on the assessment of the diplomat. This does not belong to that category. So, for very outset I differentiated between the two types of cable. Any cable based on the assessment of the diplomat on the basis of the conversation with somebody can be disputed and it should not be taken as gospel truth. You might have talked to him in some vague, he must have understand it...stood it in other way.
Barkha Dutt: But people exaggerate....jhoot bhi bolte hai..conversations mein na...
Sushma Swaraj: That is what I am saying. That is what I am saying! But this is ..this cable is based on an incident. Only an eye-witness is writing this. This is what I am differentiating.
Barkha Dutt: Okay.. step back now..look ahead of the fact that there is going to be a monsoon session in the Parliament. Many issues between the opposition and the government seem to have been settled. Can we look forward to a constructive next session where work will actually get done...where the business of Parliament will actually be conducted?
Sushma Swaraj: Even in this year...
Barkha Dutt: Some work has been done.
Sushma Swaraj: No.. why some work?? Financial business, Railway budget, President's address hour, motion of thanks..so many things. Actually the first part of every budget session is devoted to these three things. And all the three things have been done. May be between monsoon session and this session may be we have our smaller session only dedicated to the legislative business because earlier the budget session is in two parts. First part is dedicated to these three things: motion of thanks, railway budget and budget. And the other part takes the finance bill and other legislative businesses. Because of these five elections this time it has been pre-pond and we are adjourning final time...but we have smaller session in between..so will do the legislative business thing. You can't call this session as non constructive.
Barkha Dutt: No. I think this was a compared to the last session this was certainly a lot got done and also as I said I saw some good parliamentary debate. One of the thing that UPA is laying on the BJP's door we act eventually against those who are accused of corruption whether it was Ashok Chavan whether it was Shashi Tharoor whether it is A Raja...even if you say action is delayed...the action happens...they point again and again Sushma ji to Karnataka where they say that BJP is guilty of double speak where the Lokayukta actually got up and said in public that several cases related to mining have been taken away from him. So he cannot come-up with honest independent verdict. Isn't Karnataka on BJP's double standard on the issue of corruption?
Sushma Swaraj: See..our party president has taken cognizance of this matter. And he was looking at this. Looking at the paper and something. And I think about ten days ago he gave the clean chit to Yeddyurappa in a meeting. So, I have nothing to add to that of the line that the party president has taken.
Barkha Dutt: Is that your...Is that your view also?
Sushma Swaraj: No, he said that publicly. So what party president has said I can't say differently na.
Barkha Dutt: Don't you...don't you concede that for the entire year when you were targeting the UPA very forcefully on the issue of corruption raising many legitimate issues your campaign would have seen that much more effective if you would have also taken action against your own who stand implicated who stand in similar case involving land for example.
Sushma Swaraj: May be the President thinks that there is nothing in that.
Barkha Dutt: What do you think?
Sushma Swaraj: No, I have not seen the papers. I am going by the advice of the party president.
Barkha Dutt: So the BJP has decided based on Nitin Gadkari's assessment that there is no need of action against Yeddyurappa.
Sushma Swaraj: This is what he declared there.
Barkha Dutt: And you don't believe that this could become politically boomerang for the BJP? In essence.
Sushma Swaraj: He must have taken everything into account.
Barkha Dutt: I want to talk about as we end a little bit about yourself...a...you say you are still the same Sushma Swaraj but many people are already looking ahead in 2014 and saying who is the BJP's prime ministerial candidate? And again and again because journalists like doing this. Your name comes up. Do you see yourself now grooming yourself for that role?
Sushma Swaraj: Barkha, I have neither groomed myself for any post and nor I have nursed any ambition for that post. Whatever I have got I have got on my merit and I am thankful to my party. So whatever was due to me my party has given it without any hesitation. So, I have not nursed any ambition. And I don't think time has come when party will decide now. Party always decide at an appropriate time. That time they will take the decision.
Barkha Dutt: But many people believe that one of the reasons that despite being besieged by the controversy...the UPA has an advantage because we still used to call what the tina factor. People believe that the BJP has not resolved its internal leadership issues.
Sushma Swaraj: I don't think this. I don't think this that there is a tina factor, there is no alternative. Even after Nehru people used to say there is no alternative. And there was an alternative. Better! So there is no tina factor.
Barkha Dutt: But isn't it true that there is a factional divide between the second generation of the BJP. Many people believe that you and Arun Jaitley have many differences. Pawan Bansal even made a joke about it in the Lok Sabha debate. There is a perception that there are many bright ..a...second generation leaders in the BJP and the party is bitterly divided into camps and those leadership issues haven't been resolved..giving the UPA a political advantage and hence they talk about the tina factor.
Sushma Swaraj: See...there is no truth in this but this has always been the dearest issue to the media. I will just remind you when Atal ji and Advani ji was there , there was no next generation. There was always a next story. Atal vs Advani..Atal vs Advani. Even in the prime ministerial race Atal vs Advani . Even when Rajnath ji took over as party president again they started Rajnath vs Advani...Rajnath vs Advani. And now because we are LOPs of two different houses so they say Sushma vs Arun... and Arun vs Sushma. This is not true at all. But this is one of the dearest topics of media.
Barkha Dutt: Because in the BJP there it isn't clear yet and...yes..2014 is far away but there is still a sense that BJP needs to resolve who the face of their future is. That political face.
Sushma Swaraj: No..when the time........
Barkha Dutt: Is it Narendra Modi, is it Sushma Swaraj, is it Arun Jaitley, is it somebody else?
Sushma Swaraj: When the time comes we will resolve that na....Why are you in a hurry? In 2011 you want to resolve this issue for 2014.Why should we?? And why should we be guided by the media for this that you must resolve now..here and now...in 2011. When the time will come we will resolve it. We have always resolved it. When it was Advani ji vs Atal ji...Advani ji himself spoke in the Shivaji maidan rally that it is Atal ji and not me! The issue got resolved in a minute. The party leadership did not have to sit! Advani ji himself resolved it in a rally that it is Atal ji and media was taken aback. So we will resolve it. When the time comes we will resolve it.
Barkha Dutt: You don't feel that one the things that has changed in Parliament is that between you and Arun Jaitley in the sense that the BJP looks like modern right party and you look at your most effective chief ministers who have returned...Madhya Pradesh from where you are a member of parliament again and again it is said that the chief ministers who do well are those who concentrate on governance and development and less on identity politics! Are we seeing the second generation of the BJP finally leading the party away from the identity politics and following a governance modern?
Sushma Swaraj: There is no crisis of identity! We know what is our identity. There is no crisis of identity. That is why we are all focussing on development, on issues of people, issues that relate to the people, issues which are concerned with the people because there is no crisis of identity at all.
Barkha Dutt: Now assembly elections are coming and they involve several key women politicians Mamata Banerjee, Jayalalithaa, you're of course going to be campaigning. It's been in a sense good year for women in politics but not for the women reservation bill.
Sushma Swaraj: Yes.......
Barkha Dutt: What happened to it?
Sushma Swaraj: Rajya Sabha it was passed with our support. In Lok Sabha it has not been introduced.
Barkha Dutt: Why is that...Why has it not happened?
Sushma Swaraj: The same thing. For the last 16years... that there is no consensus.
Barkha Dutt: Talk a little bit about being a woman..being a woman in the party that is seen to be...and not just your own party..Politics has continued to be a male turf. Have you ever felt any kind of handicapped...have you ever scrutinized in a different way because you are a woman. Are there some things where woman across party lines are able to connect on...that even within your party forums you are not able to......??
Sushma Swaraj: Never Barkha...never...With all letter capital NEVER!! I have never been discriminated against being a woman. I was given my due. I was the first woman general secretary of the party, I was the first woman spokesperson of any major national party, I was the first woman chief minister of BJP, I was the first woman cabinet minister of BJP! so..everything which was due to me has been given and why do you say it's a male turf?! Three- four parties are being sited over by women. You yourself named Mamata Banerjee (Barkha: Mamata Banerjee, Jayalalithaa, Sonia Gandhi, Mayawati) then Jayalalithaa, Mayawati, Sonia Gandhi. So many ministers...chief ministers...so it has seized to be a male turf.
Barkha Dutt: And yet the women reservation bill....are you saying then is it really needed?
Sushma Swaraj: It is needed. It is needed because there is an imbalance. Yes, in many parties women are heading, but the common woman is not getting her due. Why in a population of 50% you (sic) are not more than 10%? So we need reservation.
Barkha Dutt: One of the things Sushma ji that everybody talks about when it comes to you is your oratory. I am curious to know that how much time does it goes in the preparation of those parliamentary speeches?
Sushma Swaraj: When you say how much time...it's not that I sit somewhere or prepare them or ask somebody to prepare them. First thing is all speech is prepared by me alone.
Barkha Dutt: You don't have anybody writing them....
Sushma Swaraj: No...not at all. I don't take help of anybody. Never! Till today all the speeches which have been made by me are my own. Time is that when I have to speak thoughts come to my mind. They keep coming to my mind. I jot them down. Just scribble them...and then I start collecting my thoughts. I only ask my staff to give me material which I want. For example in this speech I wanted PM's statement, I wanted committee report, I wanted Hindu paper. So all this thing I just ask my staff to give it to me and then....I collect my thoughts and prepare the speech. Not that..I write the speech because..one thing you must have noticed that I never refer to my notes (Barkha Dutt: That is right! ). I never never refer to my notes because then you lose the eye contact. I never lose the eye contact while speaking. So, once I jot down the points that these points...that even though those points are not in my hand I never look at the points because you lose the coherence also. So, when I collect my thoughts I make them coherent also that one goes to another, the second goes to the third and third goes to the fourth... Like that! So, I only ask my staff to give me the material which I want, which I identify that I need them...otherwise I don't...
Barkha Dutt: So you never write out a speech?
Sushma Swaraj: No! Never.
Barkha Dutt: What has been ..my last question your toughest moment when you look back at your experience of leader of opposition that was may be the most difficult, most challenging that made you...that put you in dilemma about which way to take a decision. So far what moment....?
Sushma Swaraj: Last session when we were not working. Because I really wanted that some way should be found when Parliament should start functioning. That is why in all the meeting I was telling Pranab da that please find some way and when he said that faayda nahi hoga...to I told him that ek faayda hoga...is kya Saansad chal jaayegi. To it saddened me, it upsets me...and the only thing that one sentence clicked..said that aap baar-baar keh rahe hai faayda nahi hoga. Main keh rahi hu ek faayda hoga...very curiously he asked kya? what? kya faayda hoga?Maine kaha Saansad chal jaayegi. So that was the toughest moment. I wanted the house to run.
Barkha Dutt: Well...we are looking forward to a functioning Parliament but as fiery and high quality debate that we saw this time! Thank you so much!
Sushma Swaraj: Thank you Barkha!