In an exclusive interview to CNN-IBN, senior BJP leader and lawyer Ram Jethmalani criticised the Congress party as a government of crooks that had to be brought down and said that he will do so using "all his weapons".
Speaking to Karan Thapar on Devil's Advocate, the outspoken lawyer said that he would not apologise to anybody for his remark on Ram, the protagonist in the epic Ramayana, whom he had called a bad husband and added that his views on BJP president Nitin Gadkari remained the same despite what senior RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy had to say about him. He added that Gadkari should resign despite the clean chit from Gurumurthy, saying that the "accountant" was given only 24 hours to study the documents related to his businesses.
Below is the complete transcript of the interview.
Karan Thapar: Hello and welcome to Devil's Advocate. Is Ram Jethmalani an honest and outspoken man who raises awkward issues or is he trying to embarrass the Bharatiya Janata Party? That's the key issue I shall put today to Ram Jethmalani himself. Mr Jethmalani, you began by publicly demanding the resignation of your own party chief Nitin Gadkari and then yesterday, that is Thursday, you said that lord Ram was a bad husband. Are you trying to embarrass the BJP?
Ram Jethmalani: I beg your pardon. Not at all. I have not motivation to embarrass them. I want to strengthen the party and that is why I insist on doing the right things. And if I don't do it publicly, my voice will not be heard at all.
Karan Thapar: Let's first focus on what you said yesterday about lord Ram. Your exact words were, "Ram was a very bad husband. I don't like him at all." As a member of the BJP, a party devoted to Hindutva, can you accept that was a mistake?
Ram Jethmalani: I am sorry, that was not a mistake. If people have lost their sense of humour, I can't help it.
Karan Thapar: Was that a joke?
Ram Jethmalani: That wasn't a joke. But that was something very interesting to be said. The book that was released there portrayed that women through history, have not been treated fairly.
Karan Thapar: But lord Ram is god!
Ram Jethmalani: I am sorry. I am not going to debate on my religious beliefs here with the press. I am what I am.
Karan Thapar: Of course you are.
Ram Jethmalani: And if you think that I said something that amounts to blasphemy, you are entitled to say so. But then, put it in your own mouth and say that you regard this as blasphemy.
Karan Thapar: No I am not talking about blasphemy. I am talking about you having violated the Hindutva principle that your party is centered around.
Ram Jethmalani: I am so sorry. The BJP is not a religious party. It has no control over people's religious beliefs.
Karan Thapar: But it is devoted to Hindutva.
Ram Jethmalani: This is not even a part of a religious belief. This is my understanding and my response to a mythology, which makes every religion really interesting. A religion without mythology is nothing.
Karan Thapar: You believe that Ram is a myth and not god?
Ram Jethmalani: Listen, please, please. These are things that I don't propose to discuss with you, but I can tell you that I have serious doubts whether he is, in that sense, a historical figure. But on the other hand, people have certain beliefs, and those beliefs do control them quite a bit and I have no desire to disturb people's beliefs unnecessarily.
Karan Thapar: Let me put this to you. If you honour and respect people's religious beliefs, many have been offended by your remark that lord Ram was a bad husband. Would you withdraw your remark?
Ram Jethmalani: I beg your pardon. I have met a lot of people who have said that they have the same opinion.
Karan Thapar: So you are ruling out a withdrawal?
Ram Jethmalani: Absolutely, absolutely and one last thing. I am saying this for your benefit. I have already told the press and I am telling you too. I am not willing to discuss this with the press at all.
Karan Thapar: So if you are not going to withdraw your remark, that means that you are not going to apologise either?
Ram Jethmalani: Listen, you are just repeating your questions. Don’t do that. That's where I have always quarreled with you. You know my view now. If you think that I have to make an apology... I don't think I have any kind of obligation to make an apology to anyone. But I must tell you that the press has lost its sense of humour.
Karan Thapar: Are you blaming the press for the attention and controversy?
Ram Jethmalani: Of course. It is very silly. It is terribly silly. In fact, those people who had organised yesterday’s function must be feeling very angry at what the press has done.
Karan Thapar: Can I ask you, wasn't it a bit silly on part of a BJP MP to make such a comment about lord Ram?
Ram Jethmalani: I am sorry. Please… you may have some understanding of the BJP's philosophy. I don't share that at all and you are very unfair to the BJP and please don't use this interview of mine to discredit the BJP in any sense. And please please stay away from this. You have touched this controversial subject, and I have given you my reaction and I don't wish to be cross-examined on this because it serves no public interest of any kind.
Karan Thapar: Has this, and also your public demand for the resignation of Nitin Gadkari, affected your relationship with the BJP?
Ram Jethmalani: That is another topic on which I have already told the press and all members of the press that so far as Gadkari is concerned, it is now a matter between the BJP and the president. I have advised the BJP publicly on what I think was the right thing to do. I have no further part to play.
Karan Thapar: Has it affected your relationship with the BJP?
Ram Jethmalani: It has not. Not at all.
Karan Thapar: You are as close and dear to them as you were earlier.
Ram Jethmalani: Absolutely. Of course there are a few leaders within the BJP who think that I should leave the party. Please, allow them to act. And I would be very happy if you instigate them to throw me out of the party.
Karan Thapar: You would like it if I instigate them to kick you out of the party?
Ram Jethmalani: Yes I would.
Karan Thapar: In other words, you would like to exit the party.
Ram Jethmalani: No… not at all. Because that would expose you.
Karan Thapar: Well, I am not sure how it would. But let me put this to you, do you today accept the official position of the BJP that there was no legal or moral wrongdoing on part of Gadkari?
Ram Jethmalani: Again the same thing.
Karan Thapar: No, it is not the same thing.
Ram Jethmalani: I had told you before.. no, not you, but the press. I had told the press that some friend of mine, for whom I have some respect, came to me…
Karan Thapar: You mean Mr Gurumurthy.
Ram Jethmalani: Yes Gurumurthy and he came to me and said that he has examined the documents and other things and come to the conclusion. And I told him, "Mr Gurumurthy, you are an old friend, I have respect for you. Today's meeting only convinces me that you are convinced. I am not. You will have to send me all the documents. You will have to send me an explanatory note with the documents. I will examine them and come to my own conclusions. I am not bound by your conclusions, nor do I tell you that I am accepting."
Karan Thapar: Has he sent you those documents?
Ram Jethmalani: No he did not. That is the problem. And that is how I again the next morning said that I have no reason to revise my opinion.
Karan Thapar: In fact if I understand the situation correctly, Mr Gurumurthy promised on many occasions to send you documents but didn't.
Ram Jethmalani: No, he did that day before yesterday. And I was expecting the papers till yesterday morning. They didn't come and I told the press what I felt.
Karan Thapar: And even till Friday lunch time, they have not come?
Ram Jethmalani: They have not come.
Karan Thapar: Mr Gurumurthy also said to you, in fact, when you were in London two weeks ago that you would arrange for Mr Gadkari to meet you and personally answer your questions. Has that meeting with Gadkari happened?
Ram Jethmalani: What Mr Gurumurthy told me is, "Ram you are returning within the next three-four days to India. It is much better that you meet us, and me in particular, and then make up your mind as to what you are going to say. Can you please hold your horses till then?"
Karan Thapar: But now you feel let down by Gurumurthy because what he promised did not happen.
Ram Jethmalani: I don't want to use those words. Please don't put words in my mouth.
Karan Thapar: Not let down, but has he failed to keep his promise?
Ram Jethmalani: No, no, Mr Gurumurthy had time constraints. He just had 24 hours to examine the documents. Gadkari had given him that much time and Gurumurthy came to that conclusion about him. But I am a lawyer and he is an accountant. I can't form an opinion by a 24-hours study.
Karan Thapar: Three important things. One, Gurumurthy only had about 24 hours to examine the documents, which I believe you are saying is an inadequate amount of time.
Ram Jethmalani: What may be inadequate for me, may be totally adequate for a greater brain than me, like Gurumurthy.
Karan Thapar: Possibly, but the question that I am coming to is this. Is the BJP correct to adopt its former position as a result of Mr Gurumurthy's brief perusal of the documents, that there is no legal or moral wrongdoing by Mr Nitin Gadkari.
Ram Jethmalani: I don't know how many leaders have accepted Mr Gurumurthy's advice, except that they have stopped advising Mr Gadkari to tender resignation.
Karan Thapar: But you don't think they have accepted Mr Gurumurthy's advice?
Ram Jethmalani: I can't say that and I don't believe it.
Karan Thapar: Now the formal statement issued by the BJP on Tuesday went a step further. It said that the party has full faith in the leadership of Shri Gadkari. Do you, Ram Jethmalani, have full faith in the leadership of Nitin Gadkari?
Ram Jethmalani: Listen, I had form my conclusions based on the allegations that had been made and they will stand, until I arrive at a contrary conclusion based on a perusal of the documents.
Karan Thapar: There is a slight contradiction in what you are saying now. You are saying that you have full faith in your stand but that you will change your conclusion after a perusal of the documents, and yet a few days earlier you had said that the man in question must step aside.
Ram Jethmalani: Even if I am forced to change my conclusion about Gadkari, I will still say that a resignation is called for.
Karan Thapar: Why?
Ram Jethmalani: Why? Because, Mr Gurumurthy's views are not binding on the nation. They are not binding on the investigating agencies. And one doesn't know whether Mr Gurumurthy has all the material with him. So I don't believe that the world is bound by what Mr Gurumurthy says.
Karan Thapar: So you are saying that regardless of Mr Gurumurthy's clean chit to Gadkari, Mr Gadkari should step aside as party president.
Ram Jethmalani: Yes, in fact, on the contrary, I had said that if you are innocent then all the greater reason that he should resign. Because once your innocence is established and you have relinquished your post temporarily, then, when you take over again, it will add to your dignity and to the dignity of the party.
Karan Thapar: The RSS on the contrary has said that Mr Gurumurthy's clean chit is sufficient. They endorse it. They believe that the matter is closed.
Ram Jethmalani: I have not heard such a thing.
Karan Thapar: It is in papers today. Hindustan Times.
Ram Jethmalani: Sorry, I don't know and I don't know which leaders of the RSS have said that. And even if the RSS has said so, it makes no difference to me. Please… now you are again creating things to publicise against Gadkari. So you are the enemy, not me.
Karan Thapar: On Tuesday, when you held a press conference, you said that Jaswant Singh and Shatrughan Sinha agreed with your position, that the resignation of the party president is immediately called for. Today, do they still agree with your position or have they now begun to differ from you?
Ram Jethmalani: Well, they have not expressly differed from me, but they have remained a bit silent and that silence makes me a little suspicious.
Karan Thapar: Are you disturbed by their silence?
Ram Jethmalani: Not at all, I am not disturbed. I have done my duty to the nation. I have done my duty to my conscience, to my party, and I believe that I have ultimately called for the establishment of the correct precedent of public conduct, which I believe that any person in public office will follow.
Karan Thapar: I understand. Let us go back to these three gentlemen. Why exactly are you suspicious about their silence?
Ram Jethmalani: Normally I would have expected them to come back to me and talk to me and so on. But they didn't. Except Mr Yashwant, who did see me yesterday. He insisted that the meeting be confidential so I can't tell you what it was about.
Karan Thapar: But the other two have avoided you.
Ram Jethmalani: No no no. Please.. that is the trouble with you Karan, that you are always out to make your own point. But the purpose of an interview with a person like me is that my views should go out, not yours.
Karan Thapar: Absolutely, I am very keen that your views be known which is why I will come to my next question. On Tuesday, you had also said that you had written a letter on your own behalf and on behalf of the three gentlemen – Yashwant Singh, Shatrughan Sinha and Jaswant Singh – to Mr Advani. What is Mr Advani's position on the Gadkari issue?
Ram Jethmalani: I can't tell you because I haven't met him. Of course, yesterday was his birthday but I couldn't attend it due to some other obligations. But he didn't attend that BJP core group meet which in a way showed that he didn't agree with the support to Gadkari.
Karan Thapar: Has he responded to your letter?
Ram Jethmalani: No.
Karan Thapar: Have you rung to find out in some way?
Ram Jethmalani: No. How do I care? I have done my duty to my country. I have done my duty to myself and I have tried to help the BJP to raise itself in glory.
Karan Thapar: As things stand today, Mr Gadkari is not only reluctant to step aside as party president, the party itself is considering giving him a second term. In the present circumstances, how bad a mistake would that be?
Ram Jethmalani: Well I don't believe that suggestion is contemplated. But when it happens, I will make up my mind.
Karan Thapar: Everyone believes that the party is considering it under influence or pressure from the RSS to give Gadkari a second term.
Ram Jethmalani: I beg your pardon. I don't believe that there is any RSS pressure and I am not even sure that RSS has given the same advice as Gurumurthy.
Karan Thapar: In other words, RSS may differ from Gurumurthy's conclusion.
Ram Jethmalani: Possible.
Karan Thapar: On what basis do you say this?
Ram Jethmalani: Well I have many reasons to say this. But I am not in a position to disclose this.
Karan Thapar: Let me put it to you like this. So far, in terms of your differences with the BJP over your advice to Mr Gadkari, you have said that publicly you don't intend to resign from the party and that you intend to fight on.
Ram Jethmalani: Now listen, again there is a misunderstanding. I have said that I will fight on against the Congress party, even all alone, with my weapons.
Karan Thapar: So you didn't not mean that you plan to carry on a campaign against Gadkari?
Ram Jethmalani: Not at all. Again you are putting words into my mouth. That's my charge against you. I have said that I will carry on my fight against corruption and I am talking about the Congress corruption.
Karan Thapar: What about the Gadkari alleged corruption?
Ram Jethmalani: That's alright. That is being probed.
Karan Thapar: Is this an issue on which you would resign from the BJP? Yes or no?
Ram Jethmalani: No. Why would I resign from the BJP?
Karan Thapar: Suppose the BJP gives Gadkari a second term…
Ram Jethmalani: If I resign from the BJP, I will be making things clear for the Congress. And please understand, according to me, the Congress is the greatest evil which has got to be somehow destroyed, and I will do nothing to weaken the fight against the Congress.
Karan Thapar: All I will point out is that this was not your position in 2009 and not in 2004. In 2004, when you stood against Atal Bihari Vajpayee, this wasn't your position.
Ram Jethmalani: Please… no. You are again using your words.
Karan Thapar: Let me come back to the core question. And this is a very simple question.
Ram Jethmalani: Why are such an exhibitionist?
Karan Thapar: I am not being an exhibitionist.
Ram Jethmalani: No just sit and peacefully listen to what I have to tell you. Because, as I said, people should hear my words, not yours. Your mind is well known.
Karan Thapar: I want to ask you about your resignation. If Gadkari is given a second term, will you then resign?
Ram Jethmalani: Even then I won't resign. Because that is not the solution. The solution is that I will utilise the party's, whatever strength is with me, the party's support whatever is forthcoming for me, fight against the major evil that faces this country and that is the disaster of the Congress rule.
Karan Thapar: But if you don't resign even if Gadkari is given a second term, then what sort of principle are you fighting for?
Ram Jethmalani: There is no question of any principle being fought for. I have correctly laid down the principle. The party doesn't follow it. I don't regard it as a sufficient reason for resigning. Because I do not wish to completely deplete my strength for the main purpose for which I have in mind and which is sacred to me, is to bring down this government of crooks.
Karan Thapar:But what will you say…
Ram Jethmalani: Please don't persist in this Karan. I am responsible to the people for my view. You are not responsible.
Karan Thapar:My last question.
Ram Jethmalani: Yes.
Karan Thapar: Suppose people accuse you of opportunism and say that you are keen to become an MP which is why you won't resign but you will continue, nonetheless, to be critical of Gadkari and embarrass the party.
Ram Jethmalani: I know the people of this country and they know that me being an MP doesn't give me any advantageous position in society. It has cost me a lot. I have made nothing out of it.
Karan Thapar: So you have a clean conscience on this matter. You don't think you are being an opportunist.
Ram Jethmalani: I have a clean conscience, except that it gives you an opportunity to be abusive which you always have been.
Karan Thapar: I have not been abusive, but I have had the pleasure and privilege to talk to you. Thank you very much for this interview.