Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal says coalition governments have always delivered better governance than majority governments. In a book, Shades of Truth – A Journey Derailed, to be released on Friday, Sibal focuses on the failures of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in the past four-and-a-half years. He spoke to Aurangzeb Naqshbandi on a range of political issues. Edited excerpts:
Why this book? Why now?
For two reasons. Firstly, someone had to look at this country just when Modi came to power and the four-and-a half years that have gone by and analyse the policy framework, his promises and this government’s deliveries backed by data. Because it is one thing to make allegations and another to collect data contemporaneously, analyse it and tell the people of this country that there is a wide gap between the promises that he made and the delivery on the ground, the dreams that he sold and the dreams that he shattered. That’s why this book.
Why now, because I think it is best told just before the Lok Sabha elections. We also want the book to be translated in Hindi so that it goes to the Hindi heartland and the people get to know the reality of the dream that he sold.
What is the single biggest failure of the Modi government?
It is the most non-performing asset in India.
But why does it keep winning elections then?
Remember, you can win elections by selling dreams. He (Modi) won the 2014 elections by selling a dream and people were hoping for that dream to be realised. I think people were taken up by Modi and the aftermath of 2014, he developed a level of confidence and I think he was winning the elections on that count. But the downfall started on November 8, 2016 when he, in a very sort of Badshah-like manner, decided to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes.
But he still won Uttar Pradesh after that?
That’s all right. You can win UP but the fact of the matter is what happened recently in the by-elections. When he won UP, the opposition was divided and if the opposition unites, he can never win UP.
Is that the roadmap for 2019?
Without a doubt. State-level alliances, strategic alliances and the two big states that we need to have these alliances are UP and Bihar. But of course, we actually need to have some level of understanding with all parties at the national level.
Is the Congress ready to accept whatever number of seats it is given in UP if an alliance firms up?
Whatever the number of seats means that somebody will throw some seats at us. That is not how politics works. Congress is willing to have a constructive dialogue and to extend a hand so that we are all on the same page to defeat the NDA. In that process, there will be give and there will be take but nobody throws anything at anybody.
But you mentioned in the book as well that Congress with less than 50 seats cannot dictate terms.
Of course, how can any political party dictate terms without a substantial presence? But that does not also mean that we can be dictated. That’s never the case. Mature politics doesn’t function like that. We are all in it together for the purposes of winning in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha elections. In other states also, wherever we don’t have a presence, we need allies and wherever we have presence, we need groundwork.
Do you think Congress should have a pan-India alliance with the BSP?
It wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Going back to 2019, does the BJP have an edge over the opposition in terms of leadership?
After Rajiv Gandhi got over 400 seats, the only time anyone got absolute majority is Modi. He is supposed to be a mascot of a great leader. But what has he delivered? Disruptive politics, disruptive economics and disruptive mindset. We have had coalition governments right from the 1990s. And you see the milestones of those coalition governments – liberalisation process by Narasimha Rao who is not a Narendra Modi, dream budget of P Chidambaram, golden quadrilateral (Atal Bihari Vajpayee), visit to Lahore (Vajpayee), mobile revolution, right to information (UPA), right to food security (UPA), right to education (UPA), Indo-US nuclear deal. Now, what have these leaders given to us – demonetisation, GST, disaster at Doklam, ISI coming to Pathankot, Kashmir, dislocation of agriculture sector, small businesses destroyed, rural sector in agony, big businesses running out of the country, no private investment. This is your great leadership. Great leaders have destroyed nations. That’s the message we need to convey. Coalitions are good because India as a nation is a coalition.
You have a chapter on the judiciary in your book. Are you less anxious about the state of the judiciary given that the Chief Justice has now recommended Justice Ranjan Gogoi as his successor?
I was not anxious about anything, I am anxious about our democracy and checks and balances and the fact that the judiciary should be perceived to be above board. My worry is not individuals but the institutional framework. And if an individual seeks to do something that negatively impacts that institutional framework, then we should be worried.