Fading ripples of the receding 'wave'
Kapil Sibal is confident that the present government will not earn a successive term
This legal luminary countered the present government in the Supreme Court. The Congress stalwart and former Law Minister Kapil Sibal said that there was certainly a 'Modi wave' once, but now it is stagnant like rainwater because Modi has failed to fulfill his promises in the last five years. In an exclusive interview to Millennium Post, Sibal claimed that the present regime will not retain power after May 23. At the same time, he is also unsure of the political alternatives if the Modi government fails to win the people's mandate.
Four phases of Lok Sabha elections are over. It is for the first time a ruling party is claiming facing a 'divided opposition'. Congress has also joined hands with everybody. What is your observation regarding the phases so far?
I think if you really look back to 2014 when they won the Lok Sabha elections, there was a gushing 'Modi wave', undoubtedly. But this 'wave' got still and does not exist now. Moreover, it is drowning people because otherwise, his campaign would have been based on achievements, about hoe he has brought 'Acche Din' for the people of the country and how it has resulted in 'Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas'. But he has forgotten that as he has failed. So in the course of these elections, Modi's graph is sliding at a fast pace. He is 'resolving' issues that have nothing to do with the future of the people of India. He is using Pakistan for domestic politics as well as Kashmir. He is not concerned about relations with Pakistan. If he abuses Pakistan and vilifies the people of Kashmir, he tries to gain sympathy of the people in India, especially the majority community. That is his agenda. He cannot win over people anymore by talking about what he has done in the last five years. Therefore, his graph is going down and he is not going to win this election.
On the other hand, Congress has also not managed an alliance with all political parties. In Uttar Pradesh, the party has not joined with SP-BSP alliance and believed to keep Brahmin vote intact. In Delhi also the AAP alliance has not really worked out. So naturally, the question arises about who will be the Prime Minister if the opposition comes in the power and what will be nature of the government?
These are two separate questions. Firstly, it is assumed that an alliance, as opposed to Modi, is the duty of the Congress party. In my book 'The Shades of Truth', in the last chapter, it is written that there is no possibility of a 'Mahagathbandhan' in India. From the beginning, there was no possibility. The only way forward is to have state-wise alliances. You might assume that it was Congress party's duty to have an alliance in states like West Bengal, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi. But was it not their duty to ask Congress for alliance? I do not think that it is a doable thing at any stage. We were looking for state-wise alliances.
But let me talk about our alliances. The alliance partners that we had in 2014, we are still continuing with them - maybe NCP in Maharashtra, RJD in Bihar, in Kerala, in Assam, and even in Tamil Nadu. So our alliance partners are intact and consistent. In addition, we have JD-S in Karnataka and we have some little alliances in Uttar Pradesh. But, over and above, we have foraged alliance with others. If two parties divide 74 seats among themselves and say that we are leaving two seats for Congress, then how do you have an alliance? Remember we never had any alliance with Samajwadi Party and BSP historically. They are basically anti-Congress parties. So the expectation that we have failed in alliance in Uttar Pradesh is a wrong question. Perhaps we are the only national alternatives for BJP and we also have to put up a candidate in those seats with a possibility of winning.
As far is Aam Admi Party is concerned, let's analyse it. AAP according to me was the prime reason for the downfall of UPA. The whole campaign against corruption was targeted at UPA. They made charges which were all false. They used Anna Hazare for their political mileage. They abuse the Congress party every day. What alliance do they want, something in Punjab, x-number of seats in Haryana, a seat in Goa, and a 4-3 distribution in Delhi. What relevance does AAP have in Haryana? He enters into an alliance with JJP in Haryana and tells the Congress party to accept the 4-3 equation. How does Congress accept that? It can't. How can a national party accept any such equation which is born two-months ago? What is their motive having footsteps outside of Delhi? To increase their political base. So their interest is never alliance with Congress but only to use Congress. It is the responsibility of the anti-Congress parties to give that up and talk to us for an alliance.
Now the second part is about the alternative. You can only talk about alternatives when it arises. What happens on May 23, is yet to be seen. When the arithmetic of the poll is before us, then the question of alternative will arise. At this point, it would be foolish of me to speculate the alternatives. We don't know how the cards are going to be dealt. When we open up the cards and see the equation, we will think about the alternatives. If you really look back at 2004, the fight was between Vajpayee and us. There were no other possibilities. Now there are many possibilities. So, it is not sensible to answer that question right now.
On its own, Congress is contesting on more than 350 seats. What is your expectation?
Well, it is again very difficult to speculate. Anything I say will have political repercussions when we are in between elections.
Another important issue you raised in this election is EVM. The functioning of the Election Commission also. Could you elaborate that for us?
We are deeply disturbed the way Election Commission is functioning. It seems that EC has gone soft on some people. In fact, this has some impact on our confidence in a fair election. The problem is with EC, I think they are hesitant of taking any step against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The language used by the Prime Minister, and even the kind of language used by Amit Shah, the kind of political discourse that has been seen, any other election commission would have assured that they are being castigated. In fact, the pattern in which states go for the poll is questionable. You have one day for Gujarat, one day for Tamil Nadu, Two days for Tripura, any number of days for Bihar, any number of days for Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. It defies logic. I am afraid that the confidence we had on the EC has diminished. The institution has diminished.
I have an ideological position on EVMs and the explanation that EC gives. I will assume that there are no faulty EVMs in this country, that the manipulation of EVMs is not possible. If the 21 political parties have expressed they have suspicion on EVMs and you have invested thousands of crores on VVPAT, and then please count 50 per cent VVPATs in every Assembly constituencies to show the election free and fair! That's all the demand. I assume that everything is fine. You have invested thousands of crores, what is the harm in counting? At least the entire nation would know that the EVMs are not tampered and results are genuine. It further delays the result four to five days - the explanation is illogical. So, on one hand is a genuine democratic result and on the other is the convenience of the EC. You can't prioritise convenience over assurance.
Since you are also a distinguished litigator; we have seen in the last two years, two unprecedented incidents. One, four judges came out in open holding a press conference and the other is the latest one. How do you see these two?
We are saddened with such things in public domain. For the CJI presiding over the court, it is not fair for me to make any comment at this stage. There is an ongoing process and we should leave at that.
How do you see the last minute decision of not fielding Priyanka Gandhi from Varanasi?
She tweeted on Sunday that the entire party and the leadership of the party did not wish for her to contest. She even told earlier that if the party wants her to contest from there, she will contest. When she has already given an explanation, who am I to give an explanation on her behalf!
People of Varanasi are extremely unhappy with the Prime Minister. So whether he will lose or win, the time will tell.
(Simontini Bhattacharjee is Special Correspondent, MPost)