New Delhi: Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh has been continuously targeting anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare and his team. Between September 22 and November 4, he has tweeted at least 23 times about Anna Hazare and Team Anna. However, he has said that he does not regret any of his regrets. Karan Thapar speaks to him on his views about Anna Hazare and his team on Devil's Advocate.
Karan Thapar: Hello and welcome to Devil's Advocate. Is Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh picking on Anna Hazare and is he right to do so? That's the key issue I shall discuss today with Digvijaya Singh himself. Mr Digvijaya Singh, let me first start with a simple blunt question, why are you constantly picking on and targeting Anna Hazare?
Digvijaya Singh: Well you are mistaken Karan. I have never done that.
Karan Thapar: Let me tell you that we have done some research and between September 22 and November 4, you have tweeted at least 23 times about Anna Hazare and Team Anna, that's almost one tweet every other day. Isn't that excessive?
Digvijaya Singh: Well whenever I feel I need to make a point, I do that.
Karan Thapar: Except look at the sort of things you have been saying. On the October 10 you claimed that BJP has offered to make Anna Hazare their presidential candidate. You knew that was fiction, pure and simple, but that didn't stop you.
Digvijaya Singh: Well I came to know about this from a reliable source in media, so, therefore, I thought it will be best to ask them if it's correct or not.
Karan Thapar: Look at how your tweet began, it began with the words 'I don't know if it's true or not' so it wasn't a reliable source, it was just speculation and you were just having fun.
Digvijaya Singh: No, I don't agree with you there. The very fact that I mentioned that I don't know how far it's true but I did come to know about it and it was in the interest of Mr Anna Hazare so that it could be made absolutely clear that he has no political ambitions.
Karan Thapar: Alright, even if you claim you have grounds for raising what was completely fiction, just a week later, when Anna Hazare went on a 'maun vrat', you publicly said that Anna Hazare has gone silent because he wanted to avoid answering questions allegedly about Yeddyurappa's corruption or he didn't want to comment on Prashant Bhushan's Kashmir comments. But once again all you were doing was belittling Anna Hazare. Was it necessary?
Digvijaya Singh: I was not belittling, I was just pointing out issues that these are the issues which he will have uncomfortable and embarrassing questions which he will have to answer. So I think it was a good strategy on part of Anna to go on 'maun vrat' .
Karan Thapar: Except the fact that 'maun vrat' is a hallowed Indian tradition. Gandhi ji practiced it frequently. Why were you belittling Anna when he does the same thing?
Digvijaya Singh: We have known Anna for going on a fast but never on a 'maun vrat' this is the first time he did it.
Karan Thapar: It that a reason for mocking?
Digvijaya Singh: No it was not mocking, it was just an observation made by someone who likes Anna Hazare.
Karan Thapar: 'Likes Anna Hazare' is hard to believe because you were taunting him.
Digvijaya Singh: No, I have been an admirer of Anna Hazare since beginning, 1992-93.
Karan Thapar: But this was not admiration, this was mockery.
Digvijaya Singh: This was not mockery. This was my observation that Anna has gone on a 'maun vrat' just to avoid embarrassing questions.
Karan Thapar: Alright, earlier this week when Team Anna announced that they are going to return some Rs 42 lakh to some unknown donors, you ridiculed the gesture, you mocked and made fun of them. But did you forget that they were returning money, they weren't grabbing it.
Digvijaya Singh: To whom were they returning?
Karan Thapar: Actually that was the issue you tried to raised but you did it in such haste that when they answered your questions few hours later you must have been embarrassed. These are the answers they gave - 'due to lack of complete details of donors and the source of funding it was decided that the amount should be returned to the donors'.
Digvijaya Singh: To whom?
Karan Thapar: To the very donors.
Digvijaya Singh: Who were unknown.
Karan Thapar: They used the word 'Unknown' perhaps mistakenly and you clicked on it.
Digvijaya Singh: That is your observation, it came in public. First of all the issue is that they were getting funds from unknown donors, that means they were not issuing receipts. Then, if they are getting money from unknown donors how could we know it is 40 lakhs, it could be 40 crores. Next point is, if they want to return the money, whom do they return it to when the donor is unknown.
Karan Thapar: Well this is the point I'm trying to make, your whole argument hinted on the use of the word 'unknown', they explained hours later that what they meant was this and I'm going to quote their explanation to you, the explanation is as follows - 'IAC only accepts donations from Indian citizens and Rs 3,340,463 were received by online transfers as well in the form of cheques but due to lack of details of donors and source of funding it is decided that the amount should be returned to the donors and then they add furthermore some donors who have been issued receipts have not provided their complete details despite repeated requests. Thus we will be donating amount donated by them which comes to a further 8,75,000.' So they have explained what they mean, you picked on the word unknown without waiting to get an explanation. Was that fair?
Digvijaya Singh: Well when you get a statement saying we are going to return Rs 40 lakh to unknown donors, the first thing comes to anybody's mind is who are these unknown donors they are returning the money to?
Karan Thapar: But couldn't you have asked that question rather than mock and ridicule?
Digvijaya Singh: I have always said, Arvind Kejriwal's accounting I'm not very sure of even though he is an IRS officer, I don't know what kind of accounting he did there?
Karan Thapar: What do you mean?
Digvijaya Singh: What I mean is, when he has been collecting money from unknown donors and been returning it to the unknown donors, that's why I said "Kejriwal ji ka toh haal hai wahi, na khata na bahi, Kejriwal kahe so sahi".
Karan Thapar: Once again you are mocking aren't you?
Digvijaya Singh: Well if it is a mockery it is a mockery.
Karan Thapar: People say that Team Anna, because they want confident of the bonafides of the donors who return their money. How often do political parties set such high standards when accepting donations?
Digvijaya Singh: Until and unless they clarify who are those donors, how can we accept the fact?
Karan Thapar: The point I'm asking is, should people who live in glass houses throw stones?
Digvijaya Singh: That's not the issue, they claim to be 100 per cent honest and we are the villains of the peace? All politicians, Anna Hazare says, should be sent to gallows or should be sent to mental asylum there is no mid-way path.
Karan Thapar: So you were in a sense irritated by the sanctum…?
Digvijaya Singh: Absolutely, they have been running down the politicians, political parties, political system and the Indian Constitution in totality.
Karan Thapar: Except for the fact that their attitude to the Indian political system and politicians are shared probably by the vast majority of India, in turn India looks upon them as icons and saints. Should the politicians be taunting saints?
Digvijaya Singh: Karan, 75 per cent of the population of this country participate in the democratic elections, how do you say that most of the Indians don't have faith in democracy? Number 2, in a democratic system can we do without politicians?
Karan Thapar: But you can do with better politicians and that's the point Anna is making.
Digvijaya Singh: That is the right of the voters not Anna Hazare.
Karan Thapar: Let me put it to you like this, not only you were taunting a saint which is not a wise thing to do for a politician, but in addition probably this is a counter product from your own point of view. At a time when Team Anna was perceived to be in crisis and the disillusionment with the Team was setting in, if you would have kept quite you would have allowed their stock to sink in but by taunting them you provoked sympathy for them. That wasn't your interest?
Digvijaya Singh: That maybe your perception.
Karan Thapar: You have no regrets about this?
Digvijaya Singh: Certainly not. I stand by every word that I have said.
Karan Thapar: So many people say that why doesn't Digvijaya Singh stay quite if it is not in his interest.
Digvijaya Singh: Who are these so many people Karan?
Karan Thapar: Journalists, fellow politicians.
Digvijaya Singh: All living in Delhi? I have my own thing that people living in Delhi claim to have their fingers on the pulse of the nation without even moving out of their drawing room.
Karan Thapar: So are you saying the view outside Delhi and other metropolises is very different towards Anna?
Digvijaya Singh: Absolutely yes.
Karan Thapar: You are saying to me that rural India does not hold Anna in such high esteem?
Digvijaya Singh: Absolutely. I'm not saying in what stature do they hold but the people living in Delhi and confined to their drawing rooms and their clubs claim to have their fingers on the pulse of the people, I think this is absolutely incorrect.
Karan Thapar: Are you saying that rural India does not think as highly of Anna as urban India does?
Digvijaya Singh: Well I'm not saying that but at the same time I'm saying that the people of this country claim, so the media also claims that they are the representative of the entire population of this country. Can we accept that?
Karan Thapar: Let me put it to you that many people found it odd that at no point ever except briefly in your letter of October 11, did you ever praise Anna for raising public consciousness against corruption, perhaps the greatest service many say he has done to India and you have never praised him for it.
Digvijaya Singh: Karan, in every byte I have given, in every statement I have given, I have praised Anna Hazare.
Karan Thapar: And you have always added the word that he is a simple villager, so you did it grudgingly.
Digvijaya Singh: No he is a simple man. He is a good simple man.
Karan Thapar: But the words simple is derisory.
Digvijaya Singh: No why do you thing it is not correct.
Karan Thapar: Because simple suggests simpleton.
Digvijaya Singh: He is a simpleton. I'm a simpleton too.
Karan Thapar: He is a simpleton?
Digvijaya Singh: I'm a simpleton too.
Karan Thapar: Let me put this to you. There was even a point when your comments and taunts looked as if they were contradicting the government's attempt to reach out. Your letter of October 11, upbraided and admonished Anna. A day before the Prime Minister had tried to reach out to Anna. You were undermining the Prime Minister's efforts.
Digvijaya Singh: Infact if you read my letter, I was reaching out to Anna myself.
Karan Thapar: Only by upbraiding him and criticising him. It is a strange way.
Digvijaya Singh: No I have never criticised him. I have raised very pertinent issues, which I should have raised, and I did that.
Karan Thapar: So are you saying to me that you have absolutely no regrets or second thoughts about the way you have handled or responded to Anna Hazare.
Digvijaya Singh: Not for a moment.
Karan Thapar: Not for a moment. So if the opportunity came again you will do that same thing?
Digvijaya Singh: I in all my humility and with the greatest regard and respect for Anna Hazare would always point out for god's sake beware of BJP and RSS, they will lead you to a place; it will be very difficult to come back.
Karan Thapar: But my question is a little different. If the same opportunity came again would you do that same thing?
Digvijaya Singh: Well if the circumstances are same and the context is the same, I will do the same.
Karan Thapar: So you have no regrets.
Digvijaya Singh: No regrets at all.
Karan Thapar: Mr Digvijaya Singh let's approach the whole Anna Hazare story differently in this part. On November 1 Anna Hazare let it be known that if the government doesn't pass the Jan Lokpal Bill in the winter session, he would call upon voters not to vote for corrupt people but he pointedly said that he would not ask them to vote against any particular party. And the Press said that this was a sharp change from the position he had adopted during Hisar, where Team Anna was campaigning against Congress. But on Friday, Anna has done a complete U-turn and now he says that if Jan Lokpal Bill is not passed he will in fact campaign against Congress. How do you understand and how do you accept this U-turn?
Digvijaya Singh: Well Karan first of all I must point out that on every issue I have raised, I have been proven correct ultimately. Anna first came out with a statement asking people in Hisar to vote against Congress. He also went to the extent of saying that when the UP election voting date is near, he is going on a fast against corruption and against Congress party in UP. Now after saying that he then changes his stance and says, 'No I'm not against any political party. I will campaign against all corrupt candidates.'
Karan Thapar: And on Friday he changed it again.
Digvijaya Singh: He changed it again and now says that he is going to campaign against Congress party.
Karan Thapar: So this is two U-turns.
Digvijaya Singh: Well I don't know how many time will he do the U-turn. The very fact that when I alleged that his campaign has been run and planned by the RSS-BJP combine, he said 'I don't know RSS people'. When I produce a letter, he said such letters keep on coming. But from the stage he had thanked RSS, he has thanked Nitin Gadkari. Now again he has made a U-turn that if Parliament does not pass the Bill in the winter session he is going to campaign against the Congress. Now the thing is why shouldn't he wait till the completion of this winter session and make a statement after that.
Karan Thapar: Let me put to you two critical questions about the U-turn which became clear on Friday. Do you believe Anna has changed his passion under some form of pressure?
Digvijaya Singh: Anna is a very simple man and I'm again repeating this because he is susceptible to pressure. And all people around him, they have their own political agenda.
Karan Thapar: Who has put pressure on Anna?
Digvijaya Singh: Well people around him, the so called Anna Team.
Karan Thapar: You mean people like Prashant Bhushan, Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi?
Digvijaya Singh: Well there are others also.
Karan Thapar: So if Anna has, as you allege, changed his position and decided to campaign against Congress. You are saying that this has happened under the pressure of Kejriwal, Bhushan and Bedi?
Digvijaya Singh: Well these people have got their own political agendas. And poor Anna is being made a scapegoat or a mask to fulfil their political agenda because he has a greater credibility among the people than Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan or Kiran Bedi. All three of them have got a past.
Karan Thapar: Are you saying that Anna is being used by these people?
Digvijaya Singh: Absolutely yes.
Karan Thapar: Is Anna aware that he is being used or does he not realise it?
Digvijaya Singh: Unfortunately he is not realising it.
Karan Thapar: If a man of Anna's stature and following is being used and he doesn't realise it then whet does that suggest about Anna?
Digvijaya Singh: Well I told you a simple man.
Karan Thapar: But now you are suggesting more than simplicity.
Digvijaya Singh: What else?
Karan Thapar: Well I'm asking you that?
Digvijaya Singh: I have said so.
Karan Thapar: Just simple.
Digvijaya Singh: Absolutely simpleton.
Karan Thapar: Are you sure that this is just simplicity and nothing more?
Digvijaya Singh: Well Baba Ramdev said something beyond that.
Karan Thapar: Which was.
Digvijaya Singh: That he is not speaking the truth, he is lying.
Karan Thapar: You think Anna is lying?
Digvijaya Singh: This is what Baba Ramdev said, I'm not suggesting that.
Karan Thapar: What is Digvijaya Singh's position?
Digvijaya Singh: My position is… why is Anna hesitating to accept the fact that the RSS had not only planned his whole moment but have provided man power.
Karan Thapar: I will come to this RSS connection which you have repeated twice in this interview. But one more question about Anna's U-turn. If Anna can change his position in just three days does this suggest to Digvijaya Singh that Anna is not reliable anymore and you can't trust his word?
Digvijaya Singh: Well I won't say that.
Karan Thapar: You won't say that?
Digvijaya Singh: I won't say that.
Karan Thapar: You said he is simple, you said that he acts under pressure, but you are still insisting that he is reliable, he is not deceiving.
Digvijaya Singh: What I'm trying to say that he is completely simple person who is being exploited by some very wise people with huge political ambitions.
Karan Thapar: And you have also said that he has been exploited without even realising that he has been exploited.
Digvijaya Singh: Absolutely yes.
Karan Thapar: You know, forgive my using a hard word but that suggest that he is very intelligent or aware.
Digvijaya Singh: Well he is a simpleton, I have told you from the very beginning.
Karan Thapar: And by simpleton you mean unintelligent, unaware.
Digvijaya Singh: No that may be your understanding. A simpleton is a simpleton.
Karan Thapar: Let me put something else to you. Ann has said that he will also not be campaigning for the BJP. He says that BJP and Congress have no difference, one is a graduate and the other is a doctorate in corruption. But on the same day Nitin Gadkari, the President of the BJP disregarding what Anna has said that Anna is a good man and the BJP supports Anna.
Digvijaya Singh: Well Anna goes on a fast to bring Lokpal Bill in Parliament. At the same time he praises Modi as a Chief Minister of Gujarat who has refused to bring Lokayukta from last 10 years. What does that say?
Karan Thapar: Is this double standards?
Digvijaya Singh: Obviously double standard.
Karan Thapar: But he has subsequently changed his mind and position about Narendra Modi and he said so publicly. Won't you accept that change?
Digvijaya Singh: See the point is why did he make the statement in the first place.
Karan Thapar: People can make mistakes and errors.
Digvijaya Singh: Well it has consistently being done.
Karan Thapar: You mean Anna Hazare has a track record of consistent mistake-making.
Digvijaya Singh: Going back on what he has said.
Karan Thapar: In other words he doesn't stand on any one position.
Digvijaya Singh: He is a simpleton.
Karan Thapar: But you are suggesting more than simpleton. I keep questioning what you mean by that word. But you are saying that Anna does U-turns that are like acrobatic somersaults.
Digvijaya Singh: Well it appears so.
Karan Thapar: You don't have a very high opinion of Anna, do you?
Digvijaya Singh: I have a very high opinion because he has done excellent work in the rural development, watershed management and other things.
Karan Thapar: But you don't have a very high opinion about his reliability in terms of his consistency.
Digvijaya Singh: I'm saying that he is highly susceptible to being pressurised or exploited by smart people.
Karan Thapar: And this is your explanation.
Digvijaya Singh: Yes.
Karan Thapar: As cold simple and brutal as that.
Digvijaya Singh: Well you may call it cold or brutal or whatever but it is what I have said.
Karan Thapar: If people turn around and said this is once again Digvijaya Singh scoring points, taunting or perhaps rude. What would you say?
Digvijaya Singh: I have never been rude to anyone.
Karan Thapar: But you are taunting, you are being derisory.
Digvijaya Singh: No I'm stating out something which is my own observation.
Karan Thapar: Does the Congress party whose general secretary you are, share this opinion or view of Anna Hazare?
Digvijaya Singh: Well I have discussed among our own party leaders and most of them do share this.
Karan Thapar: Including Mrs Gandhi?
Digvijaya Singh: Well I have not discussed it with Sonia Gandhi.
Karan Thapar: What about Rahul Gandhi?
Digvijaya Singh: No I have not discussed it with him.
Karan Thapar: So neither of the Gandhis but other top leaders of the party share these views?
Digvijaya Singh: Well down the line, yes.
Karan Thapar: Digvijaya Singh a pleasure talking to you.
Digvijaya Singh: My pleasure.