Karan Thapar: Hello and welcome to Devil's Advocate. How does the Congress party view Anna Hazare, his strategy and his Jan Lokpal Bill? That's the key issue I will discuss with the party's General Secretary Digvijaya Singh. Mr Singh, let's start with Anna Hazare. Is his success in getting the government to a point to have a joint committee with 50 per cent civil society representation, a co-Chairman and official notification a great victory or is that just Press exaggeration?Digvijaya Singh: Well, let me tell you, I have known Anna for a long time and I hold him in a very high regard. In fact I've been to his village Ralegaon Siddhi also. I've seen the tremendous work that he has done to integrate watershed management, converting that rain deficit area into a very productive area and he was appointed me in the Madhya Pradesh planning board. He's a very simple man, very naïve. And people have been exploiting him all over the years. Lokpal Bill has been pending with the government of India for a very long time. At the same time, the NAC was also discussing the Lokpal Bill where Harsh Mandhar and Aruna Roy were looking at it. I think the way the whole campaign was launched, Anna saahab Hazare was drawn into this. He is a well meaning person, an honest man, but he's extremely naïve. That is his fault.Karan Thapar: Has he been used by people?Digvijaya Singh: I feel he has been used by people a number of times. Karan Thapar: You've known him as you said, for many years. How do you view his crusade against corruption? Digvijaya Singh: Well, I think he is quite honest about it. He is quite sincere and dedicated about it. Karan Thapar: What about the fact that in 2005, the Justice Sawant commission of enquiry found Anna Hazare guilty of corruption? And I have personally spoken to Justice Sawant and he has confirmed that. Doesn't that innocence raise questions about Anna Hazare's credibility as a crusader of corruption?Digvijaya Singh: Well, I have also come to know about this recently. But I have known Anna Saahab Hazare pre 2003, and I don't know what has happened after that. But it has also come as a rude shock to me. When I came to know that Justice Sawant has held him responsible on charges of misappropriation in a certain case, I don't know the context. So I can't really say as I haven't had a discussion about it with Anna Saahab Hazare.Karan Thapar: But bluntly speaking, can someone who was found guilty of corruption, and those are the exact words that Justice Sawant used to me, be a credible campaigner against corruption? Digvijaya Singh: Well, when these things do come up in the public domain, he's going to have a problem. Karan Thapar: He's going to have a problem? Digvijaya Singh: Yes.Karan Thapar: Something else that's created controversy more recently is Anna Hazare's praise for Narendra Modi. Although he's tried to explain what he meant, activists like Aruna Roy, Mallika Sarabhai, Medha Patkar remain unconvinced, they even remain critical. How do you view Anna Hazare's praise for Narendra Modi? Digvijaya Singh: Well, again I feel he has been used, he's been exploited. Mr. Narendra Modi, who he said is a great Chief Minister has not appointed Lokayukta since last eight years. There is no forum in Gujarat where people can complain against corruption. Mr. Narendra Modi's Home Minister was charged in a false encounter case. He (former Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah) has been known to be an extortionist, he's been asked not to enter Gujarat for a long time and there were so many other allegations against Mr Narendra Modi and his government, how can he be termed as an honest man?Karan Thapar: So, once again you're suggesting that Anna Hazare doesn't know Narendra Modi, and doesn't realise who he is praising? Digvijaya Singh: Absolutely. Anna Saahab is a simple man, a naïve person and he has been exploited. Karan Thapar: There is of course a greater contradiction here. Anna Hazare at the moment is campaigning for a tough stringent Lokpal Bill, yet he's praising a Chief Minister who deliberately has failed to appoint a Lokayukta in Gujarat for six consecutive years. Digvijaya Singh: This is what I'm saying. I think Anna Saahab Hazare should be more careful when he says what he's saying. At the same time, he should also know what other people are doing.Karan Thapar: In fact Anna Saahab Hazare's praise for Narendra Modi sounds almost hypocritical when you remember that Narendra Modi is refusing to appoint a Lokayukta? Digvijaya Singh: Absolutely Yes.Karan Thapar: Some people say that it's interesting that the only politicians Anna Hazare has chosen to praise are either BJP members or BJP supporting, others point to the support he gets from people like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar or Baba Ramdev. Does this association perturb you?Digvijaya Singh: Well, to a certain extent. I can't call him to be supporting the BJP or the RSS cause. But he should be careful in his association with some of his colleagues because the banner that was used for the backdrop of the crusade against corruption, was of the same Bharat Mata which the RSS usually use in their campaign. Therefore, he should be careful and people around him are supposed to be close to people in BJP and RSS. Karan Thapar: Are you saying that if he's not careful, he could unwittingly be sending out the wrong message? Digvijaya Singh: He has already done that.Karan Thapar: He has already done it? Two or three times in this interview you have said that he's a naïve man, that he's being used. Who's using him? Digvijaya Singh: Well, obviously all those people who have been sort of spreading this campaign, have been sponsoring this campaign all over.Karan Thapar: So, in other words, if he's being used, he's a front, he's not really the leader? Digvijaya Singh: Unfortunately, unwittingly, he has become a front.Karan Thapar: Is he aware he's being used? Digvijaya Singh: I think he would realise in the next few days.Karan Thapar: What will make him realise it?Digvijaya Singh: All these events.Karan Thapar: So in other words he's going to come in for a big shock when he realises that he's being used? Digvijaya Singh: He already is in a state of disenchantment because he is contradicting himself. He says 'I did not mean what I have said and I believe in secularism' and things like that.Karan Thapar: So you believe that in fact at the moment he's a trouble man?Digvijaya Singh: He, of course, has his problems.Karan Thapar: On Sunday, at his press conference, Anna Hazare also went on to say that Indian voters are swayed by money, by alcohol, by gifts of saris. As you understand him, was he simply expressing a sad reality or was he sounding dismissive and uncharitable about Indian voters? Digvijaya Singh: Well, I think it was a very uncharitable remark by Mr Anna Hazare. Ok, politicians are a punching bag for the whole society as such today. Every politician, they think is a corrupt fellow. But calling the voter corrupt, then where is the democracy? I think his remark against the voter's integrity in this country was totally, not just uncharitable, but very, very derogatory.Karan Thapar: In fact, is there an element of dismissiveness and contempt for the voter in that remark? Digvijaya Singh: This is what appears from his remarks.Karan Thapar: Let me quote to you something else that Mr Anna Hazare said at that press conference about the voter. He said, 'ordinary voters do not have awareness. They don't understand the value of their vote'. Digvijaya Singh: Well, Karan, let me tell you one thing. In the last 60 years of our democracy, world over people have realised the maturity with which the Indian voters have been voting, and I think to bring them down to this level by Anna Saahab Hazare, is not at all correct.Karan Thapar: So, this is insulting to the Indian voter? Digvijaya Singh: To a certain extent, yes.Karan Thapar: Anna Hazare also said that if he personally contested elections, he would lose his deposit. You know Indian voters. Do you believe Indian voters would fail to recognise Anna Hazare's goodness, sincerity and his integrity or is Anna Hazare once again underestimating the Indian voter? Digvijaya Singh: Both. First of all, Anna Saahab Hazare is underestimating the Indian voter. And number two, if he had fought from a constituency, where he has worked very closely, in the western Maharashtra region, I think he would have won hands down.Karan Thapar: So in other words this is both an underestimation of the voter and also this is proof that he doesn't understand politics? Digvijaya Singh: Well, I have told you in the very beginning, he's an extremely simple and naïve person. Karan Thapar: Naïve and simple are not really compliments, are they? Digvijaya Singh: No, they are compliments in a way that, he's a Gandhian, there is no doubt about it, he's been working at the grassroots, and he understands the village socio-economic affairs, he understands ecology, he understands environment.Karan Thapar: Has he got the, how shall I put it, thinking and mentality of a villager rather than a cosmopolitan person? Digvijaya Singh: Well, I told you, if you see his background, he was in the army, and then, he was discharged, and then he started living in a village, and the kind of work which he has done, is absolutely first grade. And it has brought a lot of employment and economic upliftment of the village all around Ralegaon Siddhi. Karan Thapar: But his world is the village, he doesn't understand things outside the village? Digvijaya Singh: Well, like all simple villagers, he has been exploited by smart people of the town area.Karan Thapar: Simple villager? Digvijaya Singh: He is a simple villager.Karan Thapar: I noticed, that the five people that he appointed for the joint committee, all come from the closed circle of his loyalists and supporters. He hasn't found room for a Harsh Mander or Aruna Roy, who are at least as qualified as anyone else, on the subject of the Lokpal. What do you make of that? Digvijaya Singh: This is what I'm saying. He has been surrounded by some section of people, who are only trying to sort of push their own cause. At the same time, why has he not taken Harsh Mander and Aruna Roy, these are also as competent, as honest, and as dedicated as the others, even more, I feel.Karan Thapar: What do you think of the people that he has actually appointed? The Bhushans, Arvind Kejriwal, Justice Hegde, what do you think of the quality and caliber of the people that he has appointed? Digvijaya Singh: Well, Arvind Kejriwal is the chela of Aruna Roy. So if Aruna Roy had been taken, it would have been much better. As far as Justice Hegde is concerned, I am really not aware of his worth. Obviously he must be a good Judge. But at the same time keeping Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan both there, and I was really surprised, yesterday only they have been noticed for undervaluing their property, and also avoiding paying the right amount of stamp duty. I think they should be careful in chosing their friends. Karan Thapar: Just to understand you properly, you are saying notices just yesterday were given to the two Bhushans, I presume you are saying court notices for undervaluing their property and not paying the proper amount to stamp duty? Digvijaya Singh: YesKaran Thapar: Are you saying that this of course suggests that they are not suitable to be on a body that determines a Lokpal to fight corruption? Digvijaya Singh: Well, I'm not saying that. But it raise question marks.Karan Thapar: Serious question marks? Digvijaya Singh: Yes.Karan Thapar: Mr Digvijaya Singh, Anna Hazare says that the issues that we've discussed are disinformation, he's saying that they are being brought to the surface as an attempt to create division, discord of schism. How do you respond to that? Digvijaya Singh: I don't think so, because these things were bound to happen, because the kind of media hype that he got in this crusade against corruption, it's all good. A Jan Lokpal Bill has to come, it should be there. And the Prime Minister himself has volunteered that he'll be very happy to be included in the Jan Lokpal Bill also, but the issue is, can Jan Lokpal Bill alone solve the issue of corruption? No.Karan Thapar: And these questions that I've just raised with you, are legitimate questions. Digvijaya Singh: Absolutely Yes.Karan Thapar: These aren't an attempt to create a divide or discord? Digvijaya Singh: No, no.Karan Thapar: They are justified? Digvijaya Singh: Absolutely.Karan Thapar: Mr Digvijaya Singh, let's come to Anna Hazare's strategy. He has set a deadline for Parliament to pass the Lokpal Bill. He says it must be passed by August 15, and if not, he will launch a protest at the Red Fort itself. Is it fit-in for Anna Hazare to set a deadline for the functioning of a constitutional body like Parliament? Digvijaya Singh: Well I think he's overdoing it. The institutions that we have built up over the years, after all democracy is the best form of governance, and therefore, to undermine the authority of democratic values and traditions, and the constitution is not justified. It's not good for the country, it's not good for the democracy.Karan Thapar: And if MPs and select committies need more time in Parliament, they must have it? Digvijaya Singh: Absolutely, you know, these things are not done at a threat of a barrel of a gun. These things have to be evolved, consensus has to be evolved, all political groups, all political ideologies have to get together, to have a comprehensive Lokpal Bill which can curb corruption. Karan Thapar: So, your advice to the government is that ignore this August 15 deadline? Digvijaya Singh: No, I'm not asking to ignore or to take notice of that. The issue is, all political parties have get together, and bring about a consensus and the consensus will take time. And then, you never know, the BJP or the Opposition may not allow Parliament to function.Karan Thapar: Now, a second condition that Anna Hazare has imposed is that all the discussions of the joint committee must be videographed and must be made available, transparent and perhaps televised to the country. Does that make sense? Digvijaya Singh: There is no harm in it. The more transparent, the better it is for everyone.Karan Thapar: You have no objection to that? Digvijaya Singh: At least for me, I think it's a good idea.Karan Thapar: Some people say that if in fact the discussions are televised, it will force people to adopt populist positions, and they won't actually reveal their real thinking in case.Digvijaya Singh: Why should they hide behind that? Let there be a fair and justified argument and debate on this.Karan Thapar: So here you agree with Anna Hazare? Digvijaya Singh: Yes, I do.Karan Thapar: One of his lieutenants Arvind Kejriwal has said that the basis of the discussion in the Joint Committee must be the Jan Lokpal Bill, and not the government's version of the Bill or any thinking that comes from the National Advisory Council. Do you agree with it? Digvijaya Singh: No, why should he keep the other suggestions, sort of, out? Let everything be discussed in the Jan Lokpal Bill so that a good Jan Lokpal Bill is drafted. Karan Thapar: So the discussion must be as broadbased as possible? Digvijaya Singh: Absolutely.Karan Thapar: Let's come briefly to the content of the Jan Lokpal Bill. You've gone on record to say it should cover corporate India, it should cover NGOs. Briefly, why do you want that? Digvijaya Singh: Well, in US, there is a Bill which looks after such charges, of corporate sectors and of NGOs also. So why shouldn't we involve them also into this?Karan Thapar: Anna Hazare says that the Lokpal Bill must not just cover politicians, but its mandate must also cover bureaucrats and as far as corruption is concerned, it must cover judges as well. Would you agree with that? Digvijaya Singh: Absolutely 100 per cent.Karan Thapar: So you would agree about bureaucrats and judges? Digvijaya Singh: Yes.Karan Thapar: Do you think your government will agree with you or you perhaps are a alone voice on that?Digvijaya Singh: Well, I think, to curb corruption, we have to look at all arms of democracy - whether executive, bureaucratic or judiciary.Karan Thapar: Anna Hazare has also gone one step further. He says that the Lokpal must include the powers of the office of the CVC, the corruption wing of the CBI and all public grievance redressal units of all public sector units. In other words, it must be a much bigger entity, than just the small specific Lokpal that the government is considering? Digvijaya Singh: Well, I think this can be discussed and debated. But let us be very careful on this because we should not create an institution which becomes an authority by itself accountable to none, and which can sort of dislodge a duly elected Prime Minister of this country. So I think we have to be very careful. Some kind of a balance has to be struck, so that this institution by itself doesn't become a monster. Karan Thapar: In the mandate in the Jan Lokpal Bill that Anna Hazare and his supporters have created, they have also included grievances and they haven't specified what sort of grievances, so the assumption is all the grievances can be considered by the Jan Lokpal Bill. Digvijaya Singh: No, I think this will be diluting the purpose for which the Jan Lokpal Bill is being drafted.Karan Thapar: So, it should be narrowly focused on corruption? Digvijaya Singh: Absolutely.Karan Thapar: Kapil Sibal has said that even after the Lokpal is created, it won't be a panacea. It can't possibly take care of problems of health and education or drinking water, that are often real problems for people in India. Anna Hazare criticised him for saying this, and said that if this is his view, he should resign from the committee.Digvijaya Singh: I think both comments are irrelevant to the issue of corruption. The issue is that there are different forums for different grievances on different issues. What is most important is to ensure that some kind of a balance is struck between the elected democratic institutions and this authority to curb corruption, so that there is enough check in balance, so that everything is on track.Karan Thapar: Checks and balances and balance in the nature of the authority, those are the two important things you keep stressing. Digvijaya Singh: Absolutely. Karan Thapar: Thank You. Pleasure talking to you Mr Digvijaya Singh.