BJP doomed, Vasundhara must be jailed: Shekhawat (Interview)

January 13th, 2009 - 4:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyNew Delhi, Jan 13 (IANS) Former Indian vice president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat Tuesday said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was “doomed” and he wanted to see former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje in jail “for her misdeeds”.In a renewed and scathing attack on the BJP of which he had been a key leader for decades, Shekhawat also insisted on contesting the coming Lok Sabha elections from his home state of Rajasthan despite opposition from the BJP.

The 86-year-old, who quit the BJP when he contested vice presidential elections in 2002, created a flutter in his former party last week when he announced that he would be a candidate in the parliamentary polls.

The unexpected announcement was seen as a challenge to the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani. Both Shekhawat and Advani along with former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee have been with the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, the BJP’s predecessor, since its birth in 1951.

On Tuesday, Shekhawat, a three-time chief minister of Rajasthan, reiterated his attack on Vasundhara Raje, adding that he wanted to see her in prison for corruption.

“You are asking me if I want to see her out of politics? I am not intending to send her packing from Rajasthan politics, I want to send her to jail for her misdeeds,” said Shekhawat, speaking at his residence that has become a sudden centre of hectic activity, embarrassing the BJP.

“I brought her (Raje) into politics, I was instrumental in making her chief minister but I never knew she will turn out to be so corrupt,” he said, speaking mostly in Hindi.

He said he had asked Rajasthan’s new Congress Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to probe charges of embezzlement by the previous BJP government of Raje and file police complaints in cognisable cases.

Flashing newspaper reports of alleged corruption by the Raje government, he asked: “How can I tolerate this?”

Asked why the BJP was not taking notice of the charge against Vasundhara Raje if it was true, he retorted: “I am not happy with the BJP. Corruption is spreading in the BJP like plague and the party is headed for doom.”

Shekhawat, India’s vice president from 2002-07, explained why he was cut up with the BJP, which he had nurtured for decades in the Hindi-speaking belt, particularly Rajasthan.

He said once he lost the presidential elections two years ago, “the party never called me back, never welcomed me. If they do not call me, should I sit idle and do nothing?”

That’s why, he said, he wanted to contest elections on his own “if my health permits and if people want me to”. He quickly added that “people includes the BJP also”.

Pointed out that some party leaders were dubbing him as a fossil, he grinned and shot back: “If I am a fossil, so is Advani, so is Vajpayee. I am 86, Vajpayee is 83 and Advani is 81. We are in the same age group.”

A former policeman, Shekhawat was a member of the Rajasthan assembly from 1952 to 1972 and again from 1977 to 2002.

He said: “People in Kota plead with me that I should contest from there. I may contest from there but I may contest from somewhere else. I have not made up my mind.”

Some BJP leaders are calling him ungrateful for speaking against the BJP. Shekhawat remarked in English: “Those who say so are being ungrateful to me.”

He said he wanted “to launch a campaign against corruption. I have read all books and Supreme Court judgments on corruption”.

But he clarified that he did not want to undermine Advani, the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP.

“I am not causing any embarrassment to Advani for the simple reason that I am not in the party.

“Secondly, I never said I am fit for prime ministership, the media assumes so.”

So why is the BJP so tense over his political plans? “I don’t think Advani is worried. And he should not be. Those who rule the roost in the party are in panic, not Advani.”

But isn’t he referring to Advani? “I am not talking about him,” Shekhawat said.

Shekhawat denied that he was from the so-called Vajpayee lobby in the BJP out to hurt Advani.

“What lobby? Vajpayee and Advani are like my brothers. There are some people in the party who want to create a rift between the three of us,” he said.

He denied placing any demands before the BJP. “What demands? Vajpayee is not well, cannot even speak properly, Advani is like my brother. I don’t listen or bother about anyone else.”

He again mocked at BJP president Rajnath Singh for his comment that “those who take a dip in the Ganges should not think of bathing in the well” - remarks meant to mean that those who have held constitutional posts should not fight elections.

“Does one never bathe after taking a plunge in the Ganga? You eventually bathe in your home, and with water that comes from the tap.”

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