Days after Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi applauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the surgical strikes on terror launchpads in POK, AICC General Secretary and Rajya Sabha Member Digvijaya Singh called PM Modi and NSA Mr Ajit Doval as 'war mongers';' I see Mr Narendra Modi and Mr Ajit Doval both as war mongers', Mr Singh said, replying to a question on whether India and Pakistan can afford a war.
Digvijaya Singh also said that surgical strikes happened during UPA's term and then the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took opposition parties and leaders into confidence and asked them not to publicize the issue because, 'what was more important for the prime minister was peace between Pakistan and India so that India's economic growth is not hampered'. Singh also pointed out that while the BJP has told it's people not to indulge in chest-thumping, 'the chest thumping is done by Amit Shah and down the line'.
The veteran Congress leader spoke exclusively to CNN News18's Rupashree Nanda.
Full text of the interview
CNN News18: The NDA Government and the Army have said that the surgical strikes were hugely successful and even though BJP has told it's people not to indulge in chest thumping, a little bit of that has already begun. We have heard the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh saying that the Prime Minister now has a 100 inch chest. How would you react to this?
Digvijaya Singh: First of all let me congratulate brave soldiers who have gone through the surgical strikes. How successful it was, I think we have to believe what they are claiming. I don't want to dispute that. But these kind of strikes have taken place earlier also. The only difference is this chest thumping and this media going overboard never happened earlier because earlier prime minister thought that these were issues that are best left to be tackled by the army and the defense forces. There was never an instance where the PM said no to an army offensive or,said no to a surgical strike. Intact there were number is instances where surgical strikes took place but what was more important for the prime minister was peace between Pakistan and India so that India's economic growth is not hampered. What has now happened? Ok the BJP may say please don't do chest thumping. But the chest thumping is done by Amit Shah and down the line. Whether prime minister has got has 56 inches, 100 inches or 100 yards we are not interested. What we are interested is , is the welfare of the people. And the welfare of the people of this country is in the hands of the Government of India and they have to not only provide security but also growth, economic prosperity which is most important.
CNN News18: What do you think should be the next step of the Government of India? Should it move to de-escalate tension, should it engage in diplomatic moves also in order to put pressure on Pakistan or should it build pressure by threatening more surgical strikes? What is the way forward for the Government of India now?
Digvijaya Singh: In matters of security it is best left to the wisdom of the Government which has got the mandate. The Congress party never indulges in petty politics which Mr Narendra Modi and BJP used to indulge in when UPA was in power. We don't indulge in such petty politics. The best thing is to allow the Government of India which is privy to lot of information which we are not. So let them take decision. What is most important is to have peace and prosperity for the people of India.
CNN News18: In fact Cong VP surprised many by applauding the role of Prime Minister in the context of the surgical strikes. But when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister during the UPA regime and Mr Modi was the Chief Minister then, he was scathing in his criticism. Why was that? Is it because Congress party as you said never claimed that it went ahead did these surgical strikes? Could it not manage perceptions?
Digvijaya Singh: Let me also put it on record, every time a surgical strike took place, the then Prime Minister took the then opposition leaders, opposition parties into confidence but he asked them not to publicize it because obvious reasons which I have already said. Now this is the basic difference between BJP and Congress party. Congress party never does petty politics in matters of India's security and also at the same time on issues where the peace and prosperity of the country is at stake. Unfortunately, Mr Narendra Modi has come through a process where chest thumping and Muslim baiting and Pakistan baiting has been his USP. This is the difference between the extreme right wing religious fundamentalist party and the Congress party which is left, liberal, modern party.
CNN News18: Is war an option? A lot of people are talking about it. Can India and Pakistan afford a war? Is it ever a solution?
Digvijaya Singh: We have had number of wars with China and Pakistan, Pakistan in particular. Ultimately, what has been the result? We have lost so many people and both countries have suffered. Although let us also remember the leadership of Mrs Indira Gandhi who through her decisive leadership not only succumbed to the then US pressure and divided the country, East Pakistan, West Pakistan into Pakistan and Bangladesh but, at the same time , both countries have continued with discussion and talks. War should always be the last option. I see Mr Narendra Modi and Mr Ajit Doval both as war mongers. BJP is basically right wing fundamentalist party which believes in chest thumping. What this country needs is liberal, modern thinking who understands global international politics and it is only through peaceful means it can go ahead. Let us not forget both India and Pakistan are Nuclear powers. And it does not help anyone, either of these two countries to go beyond a point.
CNN News18: Going through the twitter handle, u have asked for accountability of defence minister. Are you asking for his resignation? Are you asking him to be answerable in some other way?
Digvijaya Singh: Member Well the Brigadier commanding Uri has been transferred. There have been instances for the Congress party - Lal Bahadur Shashtri ji - it is his birthday today, he today - he resigned on issue of railway accident, Madhav Rao Scindia resigned on issue of Air accident. Shivraj Patil resigned after 26/11 took place. I am only appealing to his conscience.
CNN News18: Coming to Cauvery issue - it is an issue which is threatening to go out of control, and your Government has said consistently that it is not going to listen to the Supreme Court's orders. Is it going to take a political overtone now?
Digvijaya Singh: First of all, let me put it on record that the Government of Karnataka has followed every decision of honorable Supreme Court in this case...the first two orders we have complied with. The third order there was a problem. There is a severe drought in the catchment area of the KRS and also the KRS is the source of drinking water for Bangalore, one of the most important cities, it is almost like an international city of India. So when there is no water what can we give? Globally, water policies have a common thread that the first right for any availability of water is for drinking purposes. Only after that the surplus water it should be given for irrigation. On that principle the Government called all political parties and passed an unanimous resolution and had decided that we should request the honorable Supreme Court to review their decision and also should not ignore the availability of water. We are not against the judicial system. We are a law abiding system. We believe in the Constitution, we believe in the Law. But the honorable Supreme Court should also not create a situation where the unanimous resolution of the assembly is not even taken note of. At the same time, don't forget that ex Prime Minister Mr Deve Gowda has gone hunger strike..
CNN News18: The Supreme Court would say it has passed order and they are not complied with and...
Digvijaya Singh: Order on the basis of what? The supervisory committee appointed by the Supreme Court had said give only 3000 cusecs. They increased it to 6000 cusecs. On what basis? Should they not explain that in their order?
CNN News18: How do you see the conflict getting resolved? It is a question of two states?
Digvijaya Singh: Well I would appeal to both the Governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to see reason. The first right should be for drinking water and if there is surplus water for irrigation purpose the Government should release it.
CNN News18: Will you move an Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court?
strong>Digvijaya Singh: Well this is what I have spoke with the honorable Chief Minister. He has called for a meeting of the Assembly tomorrow. They would reconsider the present circumstances and the SLP is being filed tomorrow.