A tale of three women

Print edition : April 24, 1999

India's National Magazine from the publishers of THE HINDU

Subramanian Swamy, the Janata Party MP from Madurai in Tamil Nadu, is credited with having catalysed the fall of the Vajpayee Government through his deft political moves. In an interview he gave V. Venkatesan in New Delhi, Swamy commended the role of the three women politicians - Jayalalitha, Sonia Gandhi and Mayawati - for the defeat of the Government. Excerpts:

What was your role in the collapse of the Vajpayee Government?

It was a massive operation in which many people had many roles. It is for others to talk about my role. What they perceive is good enough for me.

How would you explain the April 17 vote?

It is a happy ending. Industrial houses, some multinationals, and of course, George Fernandes, (Ram) Jethmalani, the PMK, the MDMK and various rebel groups such as the LTTE, the Tibetan secessionists and the Myanmar rebels, had a self-interest in the survival of the Government; a massive combination of corrupt industrialists, terrorists, and an immoral and ruthless RSS. Three people made the maximum contribution - Jayalalitha, Sonia Gandhi and Mayawati, in that order. Jayalalitha staked her entire political and physical future. She was in the Government and she sacrificed that position. She ran the risk of opposing the Government. Had the attempt to bring down the Government failed, there would have been DMK participation in the blood-thirsty, ruthless, fascist Government in Delhi. She was immune to the offers by corrupt industrialists. She was incensed by the sacking of Vishnu Bhagwat. It was purely a patriotic reaction, and had nothing to do with the dismissal of the DMK Government in Tamil Nadu or the (corruption) cases against her. She is doing quite fine as far as the cases are concerned. And she has issued a statement saying that the dismissal of the DMK Government was not an issue.

Sonia Gandhi lent a helping hand. Had she not turned up for the tea party that I hosted, the entire plan would have collapsed. But despite the advice of people close to her, she kept her own counsel and acted.

Mayawati's was a case of political bravery. Going by the rates mentioned, the five BSP MPs, according to the gossip mill, would have been entitled to Rs.50 crores. She had no stakes, in the sense that there is no love lost between her and the Congress(I) and the BJP. She was against the BJP continuing in power. She resisted the pressure that was brought to bear on her, including threats against the Scheduled Castes in Uttar Pradesh and the offer of chief ministership. They were willing to offer any price, but she resisted. She is a brave lady.

But Mayawati has denied that the BJP made any offers.

Well, there was no need to. The BJP had no nerve to contact her directly. Rangarajan Kumaramangalam approached her in the presence of everybody in the Lok Sabha, and I overheard him offer to fix this or that. I was seated right behind Mayawati.

How did you bring the three women together?

It so happened that I was placed in a position to do so. I have been Jayalalitha's loyal ally. And I am known to the three women personally. They think I am fair and straightforward. That's why I was able to talk to them. Ultimately each of them was motivated by the national interest. They should get the lion's share of the credit.

You have also been Jayalalitha's bitter critic.

She was in power then. I was in the Opposition. There was no personality clash. Vajpayee is on record as having called Prakash Singh Badal a terrorist.

How did you convince Mayawati?

I didn't have to convince anyone. Mayawati made her decision on political grounds. What went unnoticed was that she invited me to address a gathering of BSP members on April 14. No other party leader was invited. That should have given an indication of the shape of things to come.

Did Sonia Gandhi play an active role? She has maintained that her party is not responsible for the downfall of the Government. She did attempt to wean away the TMC and the BSP.

ANU PUSHKARNA

Yes, she was not responsible. Once the AIADMK support was withdrawn she came into the picture. It is not her responsibility to ensure that the BJP Government remains in power. When a confidence motion is moved, every Opposition party must ensure that it is defeated. She did just that. She did not bring down the Government. Whether she reduced the Government to a minority, I don't know. I don't know what transpired between her and Moopanar.

Sonia Gandhi is supposed to have told the TMC that the AIADMK will not be a part of the new government.

They can claim anything. I can only say that Sonia Gandhi never got into the act until the Government prima facie lost its majority. If she convinced A, B or C, she did what is perfectly acceptable in parliamentary politics.

The TMC has said that it will not support a government which includes the AIADMK.

That is their problem. Who is stopping them?

What will be the profile of the new government?

It will be a broad secular front.

What about the inherent contradictions among the parties opposed to the BJP?

India is full of inherent contradictions. Resolving them is part of democracy.

Do you expect to break the BJP and its allies?

If there is a strong anti-RSS government, within three months we will get 72 MPs out of the BJP. The BJP's allies will split on their own anyway. I don't perceive any problem. I am not going to spell out how we are going to resolve the contradictions. This is the art and science of government-making.

What will be your role?

I don't know. I will certainly try to be helpful.

How do you view the DMK's vote in favour of the confidence motion?

It has destroyed the DMK. For the last 50 years, the DMK has enjoyed a very large chunk of the Christian and Muslim vote and the Scheduled Caste vote to some extent. In one blow, it has destroyed this heritage. The DMK has now emerged as a tool of all that was portrayed as wrong in its propaganda: North Indian party, upper-caste party, party which does not believe in 69 per cent reservation, anti-federalism; it has surrendered them all. Nothing makes me more happy. The AIADMK has recovered lost ground. Of course, the AIADMK did not get the bulk of the Muslim and Christian vote, but it could survive the shock of the electoral alliance with the BJP. It would have won all the 40 seats if it had not entered into an alliance with the BJP. It was a tactical mistake. I did not make this mistake. I was part of the AIADMK front. I expressed my reservations openly. I told Jayalalitha not to enter into an alliance with the BJP. But she did not agree with my analysis. The BJP itself said it had no alliance with the Janata Party. I signed the National Agenda because there was nothing communal in it. It was worded in such a manner that even the Communist parties would have signed it.

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