On Tehelka, saffronisation and the NDA

Print edition : September 01, 2001

The Bharatiya Janata Party, as the major constituent of the ruling National Democratic Alliance, has a lot of explaining to do with the Atal Behari Vajpayee government having suffered a huge erosion in its morality plank over the past few months. With the government determined, for the sake of political expediency, to move away from the ideals and norms of good governance set by the party, the party appears to be keeping a distance from what goes on in the government. Party president Jana Krishnamurthy, in this interview he gave V. Venkatesan, throws light on some of the controversies plaguing the Vajpayee government.

S. RAMESH KURUP

The revelation that tehelka.com used sex workers in response to the demand by the Army officers, when it sought to expose the corruption in defence deals, seems to have further eroded the image of the government.

The admission by the Tehelka team that they resorted to employing sex workers to get state secrets from Army officers is something that can't be tolerated or excused. What is there to prevent the Tehelka from employing such methods for their own personal benefits? What is there to prevent them from passing on state secrets, obtained through such methods, to persons who are interested in getting military secrets?

No citizen can justify their actions carried out through such despicable means on the grounds that they are serving the interests of the country. The state alone, in the interest of the country, can adopt certain means which are denied to private citizens.

Chanakya advocates the use of vishkanya to protect the interests of the country, and one should understand the circumstances in which he said it. Nobody can quote Chanakya and resort to such methods for his own personal ends.

Gandhiji has said not only the ends must be pure, but the means to achieve these ends must also be pure. Congressmen, who swear by Mahatmaji, ought to have come down heavily on this act of Tehelka. But they are more interested in finding fault with the government and the leaders of the NDA.

If the government is convinced that Tehelka was wrong, why is it reluctant to take legal action against the portal?

The entire nation must condemn this act of Tehelka and the law must take its course. I strongly feel such acts should not go unchallenged even legally.

The government came under attack from its supporters outside the NDA and from the constituents of the NDA during the debate in the Lok Sabha on the saffronisation of education. Is the government pushing its hidden agenda on unwilling NDA constituents?

Accusing the BJP Ministers in the NDA government of trying to saffronise education is a favourite pastime of the leftists and Congressmen. They have not pointed out a single instance on the basis of which they make this sweeping remark against Human Resource Development Minister Dr.Murli Manohar Joshi. To say that opportunities should be given, without any compulsion, to study Vedic mathematics and Vedic astrology is not saffronisation. There is no compulsion on any university or college to go in for these. If there are students to study it, why deny them?

About 15 years ago, the Congress government introduced the Russian method of mathematics in the entire country. It was there for seven or eight years. It created havoc. The leftists supported it. If the Congress and the leftists could bring in the Russian method of mathematics into our curricula and make it compulsory, is it an unpardonable sin to provide facilities for willing students to study Vedic mathematics and Vedic astrology?

But how do you answer the criticism of saffronisation of education by your own allies, the DMK, the Telugu Desam Party and the Trinamul Congress?

If any constituent of the NDA can point out that the NDA is moving away from its agenda, it must do so. I am yet to find any specific charge which any constituent has substantiated about saffronisation of education. We don't interfere with the DMK's education policy.

Marx can be studied, in our universities, but not the Vedas. Lenin's life can be studied, but not the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It is a free country... nothing has been made compulsory. Joshi has said the committee on curriculum changes was set up by the previous governments. We have not moved away from it.

Is there a conflict between the hardline elements and the more pragmatic ones within the BJP over the education agenda?

Who amongst us is a hardliner or a softliner? As in every democratic party, in our top level meetings everyone expresses his or her view, and a consensus is built up. That becomes the party's view and everybody accepts it.

The Prime Minister's speech at an RSS meeting in his house disapproving the conversions carried out by Christian missionaries has created misgivings. Do you defend his stand?

The Prime Minister praised the services of missionaries. But there is a problem of conversion. He mentioned only that. May be he criticised it. This matter of conversion is a source of friction between the Hindu community and the minority communities. Before Independence there was no problem with conversions. Now people feel that conversion through enticement is going on in certain sections of society. That is why I am happy to find that the Church's representatives have met the RSS representatives. Further meetings should take place, and an amicable solution should emerge so that there is no room or scope for friction or heart burning.

The UTI scam has brought out the inherent contradictions within the ruling alliance.

Such things do happen. But the question is whether the government is trying to cover it up. Earlier governments, whenever any scam surfaced, tried to cover it up. The NDA government took action the moment the scam came to its notice. It removed the UTI Chairman, brought in a new Chairman, ordered a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) inquiry and a thorough probe, and then acceded to a full-scale debate in Parliament on the issue. But the Opposition did not allow Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha to reply to the charges. It seems the Opposition does not want the truth to go into the records of Parliament's proceedings. They want only their version to be there. Is this parliamentary democracy?

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