New Delhi: “We need to decide if we want ‘bulldozer raj’ or if the Constitution should prevail,” former Union minister Yashwant Sinha has said, a day after he was announced as the opposition’s nominee for the upcoming presidential election.
“The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under the prime minister (Narendra Modi) and the home minister (Amit Shah) is following a path that is not only undemocratic, but also dangerous for our future,” Sinha told ThePrint in an interview, referring to his own former party.
Sinha will be up against the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) nominee, former Jharkhand governor Droupadi Murmu. While the numbers look in favour of Murmu, according to Sinha, 18 July isn’t just about numbers, but also a united opposition’s fight against an “authoritarian” government.
And although Murmu seems to be comfortably placed with support already extended by parties such as the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) — the NDA candidate just needs the backing of either the BJD or the Jagan Mohan Reddy-YSR Congress Party to clinch the election — Sinha was confident that all non-BJP leaders and parties would support him.
“We are absolutely certain that all non-BJP parties active across states will see the light of the day and realise the dangers this country is facing (from the ruling party) and that they will have the courage to stand up,” he said.
The coming together of the opposition for his candidature, Sinha claimed, marked a new beginning. He went on to term it a “new beginning” and a “fresh start” for the opposition.
“Everyone was earlier saying there is no opposition and that it was scattered. Now, there is one. I am sure this unity will prevail in the future and will become the beginning of a relentless fight against the government that is becoming more and more authoritarian,”
‘Experience will come handy’
With two decades of service as an IAS officer as well as tenures as a Union minister in two governments, Sinha claimed that his long career and experience make him a suitable candidate for the top job.
He refused to read much into the turn of events that saw him exit the BJP in 2018 — the party where, under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L. K. Advani, he had spent much time fighting the Congress, then the country’s major political force. According to Sinha, politics is ever-evolving and not static, and the parties need to take into account these changing circumstances.
“What the BJP was yesterday, the Congress is today. The BJP of Vajpayee and Advani is dead and gone. Even in the opposition, the Congress cooperated with us (for the presidential nomination). Democracy is run on consensus, not just numbers,” he said.
In the election, Sinha will be pitted against Murmu, a tribal leader from Odisha who has been an MLA as well as governor of Jharkhand.
Though Sinha was expecting the BJP to pit a candidate against him, he said it would have been “best if he ran solo for this post”. Nevertheless, the former Union finance minister said that he was confident of getting support from like-minded opposition parties.
Expressing trust that such leaders would vote for him in the electoral college, Sinha said that non-BJP chief ministers now have to face the “wrath” of the Centre.
“I personally know how many leaders today are bothered by agencies of the government such as the ED [Enforcement Directorate] and the CBI [Central Bureau of Investigation]. Today, the people’s electoral verdict is being changed by money power and misuse of these agencies. Look at what is happening in Maharashtra today,” he said, referring to the uncertainty surrounding the Maha Vikas Aghadi government’s future after Shiv Sena minister Eknath Shinde orchestrated a major rebellion against his party chief, CM Uddhav Thackeray.
As a “political person”, Sinha said it was his duty to make people aware of these “dangers”. “We are living in a raid raj today,” he said.
(Edited by Tony Rai)