Janata Party chief and former law minister Subramanian Swamy talks to Saubhadra Chatterji about life and politics
Before coming to the current 2G issue, I want to ask you an existential question. What prompts you to knock the doors of courts as a crusader?
People love to play safe, but in my case I don’t need to play safe. I am in a position where I already have what I wanted. I have been full professor at the Harvard University. I was a professor at IIT, probably the youngest there. Even today I can get a professor’s job anywhere in the world. People generally avoid controversy as they are afraid that they may be denied a position. I have been brought up with the philosophy — it may sound old-fashioned — that it is your karma that gives you rewards. I have been a Member of Parliament five times. I have been elected from Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh and of course Tamil Nadu. Nobody believes how this can happen when I don’t have a godfather. I don’t have any shortage of money with my earnings and inheritance. So, I have elbow room for this kind of mission. Fighting injustice has always been a strong instinct in me.
But your crusades seem to be only against the Congress party.
Well, I was not cruel when Rajiv (Gandhi) was there. The whole country was cruel to him. I was with him at that time. I was with PV Narasimha Rao who was treated very badly by Sonia Gandhi. And I am still very soft on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Even the Supreme Court noted that I have a high opinion about the prime minister. But unfortunately, the Congress today has become a crass money-grabbing entity. So, I have to take a stand. The Congress — not the prime minister but Sonia Gandhi — is trying to target the opposition. She is telling the media not to publish anything I say. I have been targeted by her. I have to fight back.
But these efforts have yielded no political dividend for you in the past few years.
I don’t care. People may seek rewards but I don’t need them.
You have not been elected to Parliament even once after 1999.
I was in Parliament for five terms. I did not contest the last time. In the previous election, it was the electronic voting machine which defeated me.
What prompted you to fight the case against A Raja?
It was monumental corruption. Nobody else was doing it. The opposition may try to take credit now. It may have written a few letters but didn’t do anything to take the matter to its logical end.
My opponents’ problem is that they can’t say anything against me. They can’t say I am illiterate. They can’t say I am corrupt and dishonest. So, they have to say nobody pays any attention to Subramanian Swamy.
But Sonia Gandhi dare not file a case against me.As far as Raja case is concerned, I don’t need sanction any more. The prosecution can go ahead. The issue is why did the prime minister take such a long time? Why did he not decide immediately? My question is whether there is any mala fide intention in his delay. But I don’t want him to resign because everyone knows he doesn’t exercise full power. He has to take sanctions from Sonia Gandhi.
Do you think the prime minister is a victim of coalition compulsions?
Well, I was also a minister of a coalition government which was supported by Rajiv Gandhi. But we didn’t budge under pressure. My point is, coalition compulsion cannot be an excuse. Vajpayee used that as an excuse for not doing anything on Hindutva. On fundamentals, you have to take a stand or get out.
Your state will be going for elections in a few months. Do you see the 2G scam becoming a major political issue?
I did the same thing against Jayalalithaa too. It paid rich dividend. I entered Tamil Nadu politics in the bastion of Dravidianism in Madurai. Although I am a Brahmin, I nearly defeated the DMK candidate in Madurai. Jayalalithaa’s problem is that she is not credible on corruption. But if she and I join hands and she concentrates on the organisational aspects, I on the campaign against corruption and go to the public saying we will root out corruption, that will be well-received.
But can corruption really be a determining factor in the Tamil Nadu elections?
It has been. When MGR was there, when JP was there, corruption became a political issue. But people want confidence that you are not doing it only for political purpose, that you are an honest man. People have started believing I am against corruption, I am honest, and most importantly, I can do something about corruption.
What will be your party’s strategy in the elections?
I believe if I can win two or three seats in the Assembly, it will be taken as the dawn of a new era. But if Jayalalithaa is ready for an alliance…but she can’t be ready because she has got a friend called Sasikala. But if Jayalalithaa and I can join hands, we can easily get a majority.
The Congress managers believe the Congress party is kingmaker in Tamil Nadu.
The Congress may claim anything. Let them stand alone and show they are the kingmakers. Anyway, my plan is to put up candidates on a limited number of seats, if the alliance doesn’t take place. Madurai is my base and puts me in direct confrontation with M K Alagiri. But don’t worry, even in the past I have defeated him. I am now looking for an entry in the Tamil Nadu Assembly. I did it once in 1996 and got one MLA. After that I went for an alliance with Jayalalithaa, but eventually we broke up. Then I got busy with academics. But now I am fully back in politics. So, my aim is to get two or three MLAs of my party elected. But if she wants an alliance, I will be ready, because despite all her minuses I like her.
So you are confident that this 2G scam will be a blow for DMK in the next election.
Oh yes, no doubt this will be a blow for both DMK and Sonia Gandhi.