Senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP KAPIL SIBAL has been at the forefront of the legal fight against the BJP as well as exposing the "scams" behind demonetisation. In a free-wheeling interview to SREEPARNA CHAKRABARTY, the top lawyer says he has serious doubts about EVMs and also claims that though the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was signally responsible for the decline of UPA, a Congress-AAP alliance in Delhi is being explored to keep the BJP out.
Recently you carried out a series of exposes on demonetisation, calling it the biggest scam in recent years. Do you think it has found resonance on the ground?
It is. There are two ways in which such a thing has resonance. One is when the mainstream electronic media takes it up, which has not happened. But what has happened is that it has gone viral on social networks. For example, the press conference as I talk to you has had 4,70,000 views. It has gone completely viral. Anywhere in the country you go they have seen it.
Do you think demonetisation will be an issue in these elections?
It will be a silent issue. People have not forgotten it. The kind of suffering they went through — they had to stand in lines, their businesses were destroyed — people never forget that. They never knew what was happening behind the scenes. Why did this happen? Now they have exposure to the real intent behind it.
What do you think are the issues on which these elections are being fought?
It is unfortunate that the issues these elections are being fought on have nothing to do with the people of India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi keeps on talking about Pakistan, forgetting that the elections are being fought in India.
He is using Pakistan for domestic advantage instead of informing people whether he has delivered on the promises he had made in 2014. He has forgotten all about ache din, black money, about saying give me 60 months, you gave the Congress 60 years... Now he is saying 2022 and 2030. In fact, I asked several people this question, give me one scheme which he has taken up on his own initiative. All schemes are renamed. There is nothing like “Make in India”. It is a very big disaster. “Start-up India” is a disaster. You go to any market — there is nothing from India.
What does he have to show for five years except demonetisation and GST... both of which were disasters? Therefore, he is now talking about Pakistan and patriotism and nationalism.
Is fielding Pragya Thakur a desperate act?
They have to themselves explain to the people of India. We don’t want to get into that controversy. If their conscience allows them to do what they are doing, good for them. People of India are getting cynical about the politics that is being played.
Look at the “Main Bhi Chowidar” movement. These are not things which behove the status of the Prime Minister of India. Cabinet ministers are calling themselves “Main Bhi Chowkidar”. What kind of chowkidari have they done if, under their noses, these scams took place (demonetisation)?
The myth of a strong leader — Which field has he shown his strength in? — apart from the fact that he can deliberately make mis-statements to the people of this country. Untruths stated again and again is part of his dialogue with the people of this country.
Do you think the Ram temple issue has been put on the back-burner?
Mohan Bhagwat has made a statement that this is not an issue in these elections and we will talk in July.
Last year there was a move to impeach the then Chief Justice. You were a part of it. What do you feel about it retrospectively?
I think we did the right thing as a political party. At least we sent a message that howsoever high you might be, if there are serious allegations against you, political parties will take it up. Of course they politically managed not to take it forward. The Vice-President as the chairman of the Rajya Sabha dismissed the petition, which he did not have any jurisdiction to do. I did not want to take it forward at that point of time for the simple reason that all that we are going to get is a hearing in the Supreme Court and nothing coming out of it.
So I think the point had been made and we stand by what we did.
The Congress is right now in the midst of negotiating an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). What is your opinion on that and the tie-ups by your party in general?
The Congress Party has done a pretty good job on alliances. Take all the alliances that we had in previous polls. We are steadfast in all of them. Tamil Nadu, Kerala, NCP in Maharashtra — all are intact. Which are the alliances we are not going with? We were never in alliance with the SP-BSP together. We never had an alliance with the AAP. If you ask me, the AAP was signally responsible for the decline of the UPA.
Why is then your party exploring an alliance with AAP now?
Because I think what is happening is that in Delhi we feel that if we get together, the BJP will lose all seven seats. But then there are conditionalities attached. If it was only Delhi I don’t know what would have happened. But there are issues that have muddied the waters.
How do you expect the post-poll scenario to be?
It is difficult to say at this point of time. It depends on what the tally of the Congress Party is on May 23... how well the regional parties have done, like in West Bengal and Tami Nadu. Then, of course, the KCR, Jagan and the Naidu factors.
What is your assessment on the numbers based on ground feedback?
I doubt whether the NDA will come back to power. It is my personal assessment. In the two phases that are over, they are in decline and the Prime Minister’s popularity is in decline.
You have also raised concerns over Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
I have great concern. Ultimately, when the matter came to court, the rationale given was that 50 per cent VVPAT trail will delay the result by five-six days. I don’t buy that. But let us assume it does. That means convenience is more important than an election which is not manipulated. I fundamentally don’t agree with that.
Second, EVM voting, in principle, has two elements. A voter presses the button against the name, but when the vote is counted, it is being done by a machine. I favour any system other than a machine. A machine should not be used to count my vote. That is why the US and Europe also use ballots.
Are you fighting elections this time?
If my party decides. So far not decided.