'I will always vote against this Government'

Print edition : May 09, 1998

Although the Janata Party remains a party of the alliance led by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which is a constituent of the BJP-led coalition at the Centre, its president, Subramanian Swamy has chosen to join the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. The immediate provocation for his decision to this effect was the BJP's decision to keep him out of the coalition's coordination committee. The only member of the Janata Party in the Lok Sabha, he says that his first "noble task" is to dedicate himself to "constructing a new configuration of existing parties which is viable and stable." He claims that it is in the national interest to restructure the current Lok Sabha's fractured mandate in such a way that "we can rejuvenate the secular patriotic consciousness of our pluralistic democracy within the present Constitution and its basic structure." In this interview to V. Venkatesan, he explains the reasons for his breaking away from the BJP-led alliance. Excerpts:

Why did you leave the BJP-led alliance?

When the BJP joined the AIADMK-led front, I was already a member of the AIADMK front for almost one and a half years. The vice-president of the BJP publicly stated that his party's alliance was with Jayalalitha, and not with me. During the entire election campaign, they did not use my photograph or name in any of their posters. Vajpayee's photograph was used in my campaign, because that was done by the AIADMK. The campaign committee chairman belonged to the AIADMK. But nobody knew Vajpayee in Madurai. In 1996, standing alone, I came second, whereas the BJP candidate got about 10,000 votes. There was never a situation when I was considered a part of their alliance. I was not part of the BJP front. I was only with the AIADMK. I have said it many times earlier. In the 1998 elections, we won because people were fed up with Karunanidhi; stability at the Centre was not an issue.

The anti-BJP and anti-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh statements that were in your 1996 election manifesto were absent in the 1998 manifesto. Even a sentence that praised E.V. Ramaswamy was absent in the 1998 manifesto.

But we had included our promise about the minorities and their right to run educational institutions of their own. We have put in some new items and left out some others. We considered what was important at that time. But during the campaign I said that if these people hurt the minorities, I would bring down the Government. I said that many times. The manifesto committee may not have considered some aspects of the 1996 manifesto relevant. But we put up candidates against the BJP in States like Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Bihar and Delhi and in several other places. That itself is an indication. We may have deleted some sentences that were in the 1996 manifesto to reduce the length of the 1998 manifesto. But obviously it was not intentional.

K. GAJENDRAN

You signed the National Agenda for Governance.

Yes, I did. That National Agenda can be signed by even the Congress party today. It can be signed by the CPI(M). What does it say? It says all things to all people. It was an agenda I found acceptable. It was an agenda so blatant, bland and so broad. I cannot dissociate myself from it today.

The National Agenda has promised a review of the Constitution.

Suggesting suitable amendments (in the Constitution) is one thing. Article 368 of the Constitution enables Parliament to amend the Constitution. But we are bound by the basic structure of the Constitution, which includes parliamentary democracy, which Advani is now trying to change by talking about a presidential system.

You have declared that you will vote against the BJP Government if an opportunity presents itself in the Lok Sabha. In that event, would you not be voting against the AIADMK Ministers who are part of this Government?

Yes. This has been clarified to Jayalalitha. I told her that I am free in national politics, but I will see that her interests are not hampered. Let the question of voting against the AIADMK Ministers come. There is no question of voting against them. I will be voting against the Government which includes AIADMK Ministers. The question will arise only when the Budget comes up for vote or if there is a no-confidence motion. If my vote is going to make a difference between this Government falling or not falling, this is going to be an important factor. I will always vote against this Government.

But you have also said that you will not topple this Government without Jayalalitha's clearance.

That is right. Therefore, the question of a no-confidence motion will come only when it becomes absolutely clear that Jayalalitha and her front are also going to be participants in such a move. Otherwise, I don't think that a no-confidence motion will be moved in the Lok Sabha.

Will you vote against a money bill?

It depends. The entire Opposition may vote for it. Sonia Gandhi herself has said that if it is a good budget, her party would vote for it. We will consider it at that stage. If the national Opposition is going to vote for the BJP's proposal, why should I not vote for it? Tomorrow, they may bring a proposal saying that the salaries of the armed forces should be increased. Just because the BJP brought it, do you mean I am going to vote against it?

Are you hopeful that there will soon be a no-confidence motion against this Government?

Why hopeful? I am now exploring; it is in an exploratory stage.

What are the present indications?

I can't talk about it. I don't want to betray confidences. I am confident that the RSS, which controls this Government, will create such a situation that it becomes inevitable to vote this Government out. I can't say when. I don't know whether Jayalalitha will ever give me the clearance to topple this Government.

What are her compulsions? I don't know. You ask her.

Do you think the present Government is harmful to Tamil Nadu's interests?

At the moment, see what has happened on the Periyar dam, what has happened on the Cauvery, and what has happened about the question of Tamil becoming an official language.

But these issues have been accommodated in the National Agenda.

But where is the implementation? What about the Tamilnadu Mercantile Bank issue? This is a five-minute work. I also personally consider that in the interest of Tamil Nadu the DMK Government has to be dismissed.

The present complexion of the Lok Sabha suggests that there are no options before Jayalalitha, unless the present coalition partners split.

Can you rule that out?

Will you then support a Congress-led government?

Where is the question of a Congress government? I don't know about the alternatives. How can I say? Anything is possible.

Including your becoming Prime Minister?

Why should I talk about myself at this premature stage? This question is intended to digress and create confusion in the project I am now working on.

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