'The report was one-sided'

Published : Aug 29, 1998 00:00 IST

Maharashtra Chief Minister Manohar Joshi's speech in the Legislative Assembly attacking the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission Report has been at the heart of the controversy surrounding the Shiv Sena-BJP Government's handling of the issue. In an uncharacteristically aggressive speech, Joshi characterised the report as "anti-Hindu" and "pro-Muslim". Although this position was rejected by the Shiv Sena's coalition partner, Joshi continues to stand by his statements. In this interview to Praveen Swami, he discusses his motivations for making the controversial speech, as well as the tensions in the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance.

Your speech on the Srikrishna Commission Report marks the first time in India's history that a government has rejected the findings of a judicial inquiry on the ground that it is in favour of or against one community.

Governments have rejected reports on several occasions. On this ground, probably it is the first time that a government has done so. The fact is Justice Srikrishna's report is partial. Since this was the Government's belief, it rejected the report. This was perhaps the first time that there was such a report which was biased in favour of one community, which is why the Government had to reject it on those grounds.

Your coalition partner, the BJP, does not seem to agree with this perception.

Why not? A number of their people spoke in the Assembly about this.

Deputy Chief Minister Gopinath Munde told Frontline that he did not believe the report was biased in favour of or against anybody.

The decision to reject the report was taken in the Cabinet. The speech that I made was a prepared speech and was the same that had been discussed in the Cabinet. So I don't think he could have said he did not agree with what I said. He may have said it in some other context, not this one.

The speech itself was somewhat unusual. You were previously believed to be the moderate face of the Shiv Sena, and there you were giving a most aggressive speech.

Well, Manohar Joshi is a man of conviction. He is no doubt soft, and no doubt does not like to be angry. But he also likes to be honest. It is necessary for everyone in politics to speak his mind honestly. And in this case, I honestly felt the report was biased. I am talking about the findings, not the judge. Justice Srikrishna was most gentlemanly and nice to me during my appearance before the Commission, and I have no differences about this. Let there be no misunderstanding about this. But I can give you any number of illustrations which show that the report was one-sided. I spoke about this, and it does not matter whether some individual liked what I had to say or didn't.

So you wouldn't agree with those who allege that you only made the speech to prove your loyalty to Bal Thackeray, who was one the verge of removing you from chief ministership?

Well, the Chief Minister's position is such that he has to tolerate allegations. I have become tolerant now. I can only say that the allegations are not true. My position in the party is quite strong. My position has nothing to do with whether I speak in the way I deem proper in the House.

The Srikrishna Commission Report contains a number of extremely serious charges of a criminal nature against Bal Thackeray and others in your party. What is the harm if First Information Reports are filed, investigations carried out, and persons given an opportunity to clear their names in the court of law, if need be?

Had there been specific charges - specific speeches, specific activities - made against individuals, this might have been our course of action. But there are no such specific charges in the report, only general allegations - which is undesirable in principle. Secondly, there is no recommendation that action be taken against Balasaheb Thackeray or others.

In any case, I would not like to do anything to appease those who would like Balasaheb Thackeray to be punished. I will not play to the gallery.

There are a number of reports of dissidence and disputes between Ministers in the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance. The recent rally of Shiv Sena rebels in Beed was even believed to have had BJP backing. What do you have to say about this?

First, there are not a number of Ministers involved, only two. The truth of the matter is that there is a difference of opinion between those two. Whether they should have discussed their differences in public or not is a separate issue, which is not pertinent to your question. As for the rally, it was led by a person who was thrown out of my Cabinet. So there is nothing surprising if he is not full of praise for me.

The rally was allegedly conducted with the aid of your Deputy Chief Minister.

I have not said that. Nor am I saying that now. Some people are doing their best to disturb the coalition.

People inside or outside the coalition?

People who have a habit of disturbing coalitions. They are everywhere.

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