Rajeev ji, has Congress lost interest in becoming the ruling party?
We were in power for ten years before this. But now the public has given chance to some other party. So, we should not begin opposing them from the first day itself. It is still one and a half years for the Lok Sabha elections. Definitely, there will be opposition unity, and a strong revival within Congress party. Congress will lead this, and the 2019 elections will definitely create problems for the ruling party.
How were your relations with Rajiv Gandhi?
During every tour he used to call the journalists travelling with him to his cabin to converse with them. Because of my frequent visits to his office, he was somehow impressed with my interactions, and later he used to call me to his office separately and even used to visit my house for chats. So, this way a deep friendship was formed. Soniaji, Priyankaji, Rahulji all believed in this relationship.
Sir, did Rajiv Gandhi ever take political advice from you?
Look, political journalists have the habit of giving suggestions. With Rajivji too I used to suggest ideas, and often he appreciated them.
You had close relations with the Congress but started your political career with Loktantrik Congress Party. Why?
Every journalist, I believe is 50 per cent politician, though he might hide it. He has a hidden desire to enter the Parliament. But he creates an impression that he has no interest in politics. I was no different.
When I got an offer, I used my contacts, every party its lent support and I got the highest vote in the Rajya Sabha election from UP. Till now no one has broken that record.
You had a very close relation with Atalji as well, and he wanted you in the BJP. But when BJP didn’t make you the Chief Minister, you crossed over to the Congress.
Let me make this clear, that I was never in BJP. And where the relationship with Atalji is concerned, our first meeting was when my father in law Thakur Prasad passed away. He and Advaniji came to stay at my father in law’s house for four or five days.
I once got the opportunity to talk to him for two hours, and this gradually became a daily affair, continuing even after coming back to Delhi. Gradually, I got introduced to his family and friends and developed a very strong friendship with Atalji.
After I was elected to Rajya Sabha, I met Soniaji and said that if she wants me to come over to her side I would like join the Congress. But she said that could tarnish my image, as I had just won the elections, so there was no need for that then. During 2004 elections, the massive India Shining campaign was on, and Congress was unlikely to come to power. Then, at that point I joined Congress. So that nobody could accuse me of opportunism.
It is known that when a person grows politically, his enemies too increase. Rajeev Shukla might be the only exception?
This might be true, because I don’t believe in enmity or enemies. My theory is that people become enemies due to jealousy. And the only way to solve this problem is to correct them in the beginning itself by giving them respect and honour. If they cannot change then leave them and forget about them. Till now we have kept on helping people and doing good deeds. It has been 40 years since I have entered politics, but because of this outlook, I do not have any sort of enmity.
Whenever there was a need to talk to the opposition under the UPA government, the job was always handed over to you as Parliamentary Affairs Minister because of your good equations with the opposition benches.
When I became Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Pranab Da told me that success of your work will be measured by how much government business you have transacted. And that would be possible only when you will sit more on opposition benches to convince and to motivate them than on the treasury benches. I used to go to opposition benches very often for smooth transaction of government business.
When Anna Hazare was sitting on dharna, the environment was not good. Hooliganism was at its peak. There was an urgent need to pass a joint resolution in the Parliament. With great difficulty the opposition was persuaded, and I approached Arun Jaitley – him being a lawyer to draft the resolution. He did it. I showed that to Sushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition. She agreed. We accepted the resolution and sent it to Anna Hazare and the strike ended within two hours. The point is that if a way can be found out by honouring the opposition and accepting their arguments, one should do that. However, the BJP of today is not doing that.
I think that BJP needs to follow leaders like you.
(Laughs) This is a typical mediaperson’s trap. I too have worked as a journalist for 18 years. I am not going to fall for that!
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections Modi raised the slogan of Congress-Mukt Bharat. This slogan seems to be coming true now.
This is like talking in the air. The BJP is managing the media to create such a perception. This similar to the other slogan, Bhrashtachar Mukt Bharat. None of the two is materialising.
It seems that people’s perception of Rahul Gandhi is different. He is perpetually on foreign trips.
In my view, he is available 24 hours. Who else is not going abroad? Tell me. The world has become a global village where you cannot remain unconnected. Therefore it is not proper to make this an issue, whether it is about the PM or Rahulji.
You have a long list of friends in filmdom and sports. What is the reason?
You are levelling an allegation against me. As they do inside Parliament. I have personal relations mainly because of being a journalist. Most of them have become personal friends.
You seem to have a keen interest in cricket and cricket politics?
When Madhav Rao Scindia was contesting the election for BCCI president. I had to accompany Gaur Hari Singhania from UP. That was my first brush with cricket politics. After that there was no stopping as I was an avid cricket fan from my childhood days.
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