Interview | GST, Demonetisation Are Two Factors Enough to Bring Down Govt: Veerappa Moily

The former chief minister of Karnataka discusses why he thinks the Congress will make a come back in assembly and general elections.

New Delhi: M. Veerappa Moily is a versatile personality. Not only is he a prominent OBC leader of Congress, he was also the chief minister of Karnataka and a former Union minister who has handled key portfolios such as petroleum and natural gas, law and justice, corporate affairs and environment and forests.

The senior leader is a Lok Sabha member from Chikkaballapur and heads the Standing Committee on Finance which recently deliberated on the contentious issue of demonetisation.

In an interview with The Wire, the Congress veteran says that demonetisation and GST are two factors “enough to bring down” the Narendra Modi government in the Lok Sabha polls, which is just seven months away.

Excerpts from the interview:

How do you look at the upcoming Lok Sabha polls?

The present trend of opposition consolidation and unity is good. There may be some constraints. For instance, the Congress is opposing forces like the Left. We are opposing each other directly in some states as there is no third party, like in Kerala. In Tripura also, we are opposing each other. There may be a few cases like this. But generally, there is a consensus against the Modi-led government and the BJP. In that way, it (opposition unity) has yet to be consolidated completely, but it is in the process. So, if that works out, I think, the present NDA government will go out.

And the question is, who will become the prime minister from the opposition? But it is not the right time to conjecture on that. At the same time, the Congress has a wider base. For example, Chandrababu Naidu is limited to a few numbers in Andhra Pradesh. Like that, each regional party has its own constraint and they cannot go beyond that.

An ABP Group survey shows that the Congress will win Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram on its own. That itself is a big number. In the Parliament also, our number will increase. In Karnataka, the Congress number will double to 18-20. Similarly, (in Tamil Nadu), the DMK-Congress alliance is strong. If we fight together, it means that we will get 30 to 32 seats. In Telangana, our number will increase manifold. As far as the Assembly elections go, the Congress is likely to come back.

Previously, our association in West Bengal was with the Communists. This time, I don’t know if it will be with the Trinamool Congress. Whatever may be the combination, the number is against the BJP.

In Punjab, we should win and in the north-east, this time the result will likely go against the NDA. Together, the Congress may reach 200, definitely between 150 and 200.

In Maharashtra, for example, NCP and Congress will definitely get (a good number of) seats. Shiv Sena may independently contest there. In that case, it will work against BJP.

In Gujarat, we will get more than 50% of seats. Taking all these figures, the Congress will definitely be 150 plus. It can even reach 200 if more efforts are taken, selection of candidates is properly done, and if we get support of the alliance.

Alliance will be the mantra of tomorrow because the Congress will have to adopt that and there should be a change in mindset of the Congress, and ultimately, the opposition will succeed against the BJP-led NDA.

But will you be able to provide a stable government?

There is no doubt that an Opposition put together will be in a position to provide a stable government. In Karnataka, we are with the JD(S) now. In the Parliament polls, Congress plus JD(S) will exceed 22 out of 27. So, there are positive signals everywhere.

Of course, the BJP will go all out. They have the resources and the Sangh parivar behind them. But the Sangh Parivar may also be a negative force tomorrow because of lynchings and many other atrocities committed by them. Even the Shiv Sena is thinking of leaving them. Look at Upendra Kushwaha from Bihar, he comes out with a statement that he will not go with the BJP and that he’d rather go with Lalu Prasad Yadav. It will not be surprising if Nitish Kumar – whose popularity has declined after he deserted the Mahagathbandhan – leaves the BJP before elections. Lalu Prasad’s party and the Congress will take over the government. This indicates that the trend is against the BJP.

In Orissa we will not have an alliance with BJD and the state will witness a triangular contest between BJD, BJP and Congress. In the process, Congress will have better numbers.

On the Rafale issue, it appears as though it is only the Congress and not other anti-BJP parties SP, BSP, RJD, Trinamool Congress that is taking it up seriously. How do you look at that?

In a political system, each party has its own agenda. I don’t think it should be taken as an element against the consolidation of the opposition. We have taken it up. Other parties had also raised the issue but have not pursued it. But they had taken it up. Rafale is the biggest scandal of the century.

Now that the RBI report on demonetisation has come, it looks like the move has backfired on the government.

Our theory has been proved. Instead of wiping out the black money, they have allowed black money to be whitened. Where is the fake money? That has also not come out. It is a total failure on all fronts. Cash economy has returned and it has not impacted fake currency or black money.

Insurgency has also not stopped either at the border or inside. It is a disaster. Around 2% of the GDP has come down because of that. And employment, particularly in the unorganised sector which provides jobs upto 40% has come down, as has production. MSMEs have suffered. The Indian economy will not be able to flourish for another two years and the only reason is demonetisation.

There is an impression that opposition parties have not been able to put the government on the mat on the issue of demonetisation.

Here is an NDA government which puts a lot of money into advertisements. They have failed with respect to the GST, because they come out with one or two ordinances every month to change the rates. GST and demonetisation are two factors enough to bring down this government. They may succeed at propaganda, but will fail in reality.

On the OBC issue, they have introduced the bill to give statutory status to the Commission for Backward Classes.

I don’t think the livelihood of the backward classes will be affected by that. It is only a talking point intellectual OBCs can claim. In 1951 or 52, it was Nehru, who moved an amendment to the Constitution to include in the Ninth schedule reservation policy of Tamil Nadu. We are the pioneers. The Mandal Commission was constituted by another party but was ultimately implemented by the Narasimha Rao government. People are more interested in implementation than just theory and the Congress has been able to implement.

I was the chairman of the Oversight Committee to implement the reservation policy in the higher institutions like IITs, IIMs, AIIMS and many other apex institutions. The 27% reservation was brought about by Manmohan Singh government. These substantial benefits were given to the people and the OBC class only by the Congress. The Congress brought reservation even in the Central Services. I don’t think they can claim to have implemented the reservation policy.

.Even in Karnataka, it was the Congress which brought reservation through the Havnoor Commission. Again in 1992, we brought the Chinnappa Reddy Commission for reservation regarding the sub-categorisation and gave 4% reservation to the minorities. Then, Rajiv Gandhi brought in the 72nd and 73rd amendments to cement the Panchayati Raj. Who brought backward class reservation in Municipal bodies?  It is the Congress.

I was the Chief Minister in Karnataka and the Congress party brought in the reservation extended to the OBCs. Any substantive measures that were brought in were only by the Congress. OBCs always suffered under the regime of the ‘Varnashram dharma’ which is propagated by the BJP. They don’t want the society to progress, to expand.They always want to hold back the progress of the OBCs. How can they all of a sudden become OBC champions?

But they say that the prime minister himself  belongs to the OBC.

It is not a question of whether the prime minister is OBC or not. There are several thousands of people in the Congress who are OBC.  I am OBC. Whether they have inducted any OBC leaders as chief ministers? It has not happened. He may have come here because he was a chief minister or a Sangh parivar man. He was in the RSS. You look at the cadre of the BJP rank and file, cadre of the Sangh parivar, they are all non-OBCs who are opposed to the OBC reservation and policy.

Who opposed the Mandal Commission? Who took the lead (in that)? It is the BJP, Sangh parivar. There was bloodshed against reservation. Even the Karnataka BJP cadre, Sangh parivar cadre opposed the reservation. So, if you dig into the matter, BJP is always anti-backward, anti-dalit, anti-Muslim party. It is also anti-women. This kind of “anti’  image of the BJP cannot procure votes when they are exposed. But we must expose them. This task the opposition parties should undertake.

Who are your likely allies – pre-poll and post-poll?

It is very clear that there will be both national and state allies. There will be some adjustment at the Centre even if there is no adjustment at the state level. At the national level, everybody will be our ally. The BJP is losing out on allies. The Shiv Sena has practically left them. So has the BJD. The JD(U) is likely to leave them. All these smaller parties like Upendra Kushwaha’s party and others are also likely to leave them. The BJP will be left alone. I don’t think there will be any takers for the BJP and that itself will be an indication that it is losing credibility among the allies and people. The situation is taking a very sharp turn against the BJP.

Slowly, it is sinking more under the weight of Narendra Modi and the RSS. You know they have an organisation called Sanatan, It is now clear that they are killing intellectuals who do not believe in the principles of the BJP or Sangh Parivar. Gauri Lankesh or Dabholkar…There is a gang which is hunting these people.

Who are these Sanatan people?

Sanatan wing is part and parcel of the RSS and the Sangh parivar. That is their philosophy.

What do you think about simultaneous polls?

The CEC has already said that it is not possible at all. I think they are contemplating holding them in February or March.

Then why is the prime minister speaking again about simultaneous polls in ‘Mann Ki Baat’?

He says it because he thinks that it will make him more popular and because he thinks people are fed up of these elections after elections. In a way, he wants to strike a chord with people’s psychology. Ultimately, that is not going to get him votes. It is an impractical idea and people also know it is an impractical idea. He is playing to the gallery, that is all.

You have been chairman of the Administrative Reforms Commission, a post once held by Morarji Desai. How do you look at the Modi dispensation administratively?

It is a one man-party and a one man-government now. He does not believe in collective leadership. And people who do not believe in collective leadership cannot serve the interest of the administration. Even the ministers have no say. The RSS ideology is itself meant for one philosophy, one man, one destination. Because their founders like Golwalkar always adored Hitler, who had campaigned for the Aryan philosophy.

Where did the Modi dispensation go wrong in the last four years?

They went wrong in every aspect. What is that they have implemented regarding all that they have promised? They are long on promises and short on performance. You see today a report from J&K today – all those projects have not been taken up at all in the four years – the power projects Modi announced never took off and the bank problems have not been sorted.

We have an average GDP. Even with a revised formula, it is not exceeding 7%. The rupee has depreciated to over Rs 70 to a U S Dollar. Never did we reached that peak in any period. They have failed everywhere – infrastructure projects, road, power, petroleum. Show me one project they have initiated which has taken off – not a single power project came up during their period. Not one big factory has come up during their term in any state. That is how employment generation is zero. They promised two crore jobs per year. Instead, they haven’t been able to generate 25 lakh jobs.

But they are saying they have created 1.25 crore jobs.

Look at their own Labour bureau report. I am quoting the figures from the government’s reports. Crime rates have gone higher. Lynchings have increased. Rapes have become a daily phenomenon and some international organisations wrote that women are not safe in India.

Narendra Modi came to power with the promise of “achhe din”.

And he is ending up with ‘bure din’.

Leaders like Mamata Banerjee are suggesting that Rahul Gandhi is a junior. What do you have to say about it?

There is no question of being senior or junior. The question is that of opposition consolidation. Opposition unity and consolidation is the need of the hour for the nation. I think everyone will subsume their personal ambitions. There is no question of a personal ambition – only one of a national ambition.

Sunil Gatade is a Delhi-based journalist.