Q. You have been identified as a dissident in the Congress. Is this why the prime minister didn't invite you to join the cabinet, or is it because you refused?
A. We are not dissatisfied. If we were dissatisfied we would have joined the government. Because of the amount of responsibility we now have we are not dissatisfied. We have already said that we are staying out of the government for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there has been an ongoing battle in the Congress for some time now. We have demanded that party elections be fair, free and that there should be no irregularities in the election process. Contrary to this, the party elections were full of irregularities. This raises questions of how the party is going to function properly in the coming days. We had demanded the PM think about this and try to solve this problem before doing anything else. If the PM is prepared to look into this, we might consider joining the government. Secondly, there is the Lauda Air issue. When we moved a vote of no-confidence, this was one of the issues raised. At that time the Commission for the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority (CIAA) was not involved at all. The parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had begun work and had stated that irregularities had taken place. The CIAA has now started working on this and I, along with other friends, think it would not be proper to join the government now. It is because of these two reasons that we have stayed out of government.
Q. In the Lauda Air case, the PAC, the CIAA and you have raised the issue and stated that the PM was involved in financial irregularities that took place. How are you going to deal with this issue in parliament?
A. We are going to raise this issue based on the findings and directives of the PAC report. The CIAA is at present investigating this issue. Therefore, our arguments are going to be based on the PAC findings.
Q. To enable a free and fair investigation into the deal, the opposition has suggested that the PM resign. What is your reaction to this demand?
A. There is space for the opposition to raise its demands. It can present its views in any way it thinks is possible. We are MPs from the treasury bench. We will be present in parliament and we will remain within the parameters set by our party. There are parameters set by the parliament and parameters set by the party, and we will remain and work within these parameters.
Q. The opposition finds the PM guilty. You too find the PM guilty. Then why don't you two join hands and work together with the opposition?
A. As I have just stated, we are MPs from the treasury bench. Therefore, we will have to behave and work within the parameters set by the party and the parliament.
Q. If the opposition introduces a vote of no-confidence against the present government, what are you going to do? Do you have the guts to join hands with the opposition?
A. We are the ruling party. If the opposition moves a vote of no-confidence we will have to act as required of members of the treasury bench.
Q. The PM is accused of not remaining neutral while nominating members to the Central Working Committee (CWC) of the Congress. What do you feel is happening?
A. We have always stated that, firstly, we should work to unify the party. Then we can think about the government and about strengthening it. But the party president has the authority to nominate members to the central committee. Till today he has nominated four members. Of the remaining 14 membership positions we have always requested that he should choose people on the basis of region, gender and caste. He should bring in those who are honest, and hard-working and who have been with the party for a long time. But again this is the power and authority of the party president.
Q. The present government is a majority government formed by the Congress but it seems to be plagued by infighting. When is the government going to work and solve the problems of the common man?
A. Yes, it is true that there are problems like you have stated. This is the worst thing that has happened in the past ten years. The infighting and other problems that exist in the Congress are not a healthy sign, and this is not good for the party. Other parties have split over issues, but the Congress has not been divided or broken up. Because of internal problems the Congress has not been able to play a very positive role and prove its true capabilities.
We feel that it is time to solve all the problems that exist within the Congress and move ahead. If the recent convention and party elections had been free and fair we could have solved a lot of these problems. What actually happened at the convention only added more fuel to existing problems. It is true that some problems have been solved. The party president has a big role in solving these issues. We have to wait and see to what extent he is successful.
Q. You were elected in the very election that you accuse was full of irregularities. If this is true, it raises questions about your election too? Maybe your votes were rigged too?
A. Although party elections were full of irregularities, we had no other option but to participate. We had to either boycott the election or fight. If we had boycotted, where could we have gone? Therefore, we had to either leave the party or participate in the elections, however full of malpractices. Since we do not want to leave the party, we decided to participate although the elections were not free and fair.
Many honest and hard working party members could not cast their votes, and two election commissioners resigned after the election. Despite all these problems we fought the elections and thank everyone who participated and voted for us. If there were no irregularities, then many more honest and hard working people would have been elected too.