Salman Khurshid, who holds law and minority affairs portfolios, says Lokpal crusader Anna Hazare is surrounded by politically-motivated people who are harming the country and impeding the government’s efforts to deal with corruption. In an exclusive interview with Urmi A Goswami, the Union minister rubbishes Team Anna’s charge of corruption against him and defends the government’s move to carve out a sub-quota for Muslims within the reservation for OBCs. Excerpts:
How do you react to Team Anna’s charge of corruption over your statement absolving Essar Group and Loop Telecom in the 2G spectrum case?
The law ministry endorsed an interpretation of Clause 8 of the United Access Services Licences guidelines on cross-holdings, and another interpretation on cheating. I gave an interpretation that any good lawyer would.
If someone is cheating, the person who gets cheated should complain, but it was not clear to me that anyone was complaining. This is a pure legal exercise; you can agree or disagree with it. Where does corruption come into this? You can say this decision is taken for the wrong motive, but then who is supposed to decide?
Should any Tom, Dick or Harry sitting in the streets of Delhi decide on the motive, or should the elected representative or members of government sworn to secrecy and diligence do so? If you believe Prashant Bhushan, then I am dishonest, but that is not my understanding of the law, Constitution, morality or good sense.
But why did you give an opinion at all? Even the Supreme Court took adverse notice of your statement.
On every case in court, I give an opinion. The issue of 4.5% reservation (for minorities) is in court. Am I not talking about it? Is that dishonest? What you shouldn’t say are words, which will be seen as preempting what the court will do. But if it is a question of public interest, you have to answer it, particularly if the press is asking.
Is my talking to you an act of corruption? It will be seen as corruption confounded from the point of view of Prashant Bhushan. If I dare speak on anything on which he has an opinion, then I am corrupt and I must answer to his chosen tribunal to decide whether I am corrupt or not. On Team Anna’s charges that the government is delaying the Lokpal Bill, I don’t even bother….
Not even when Team Anna seems to have a resonance among people?
Not at all. Mulayam Singh, who was more opposed to Team Anna and its shenanigans, got a clear majority in UP. We were at least talking to them, trying to do something, but the person who didn’t want to even talk to them, rejected them completely and continues to reject them won a clear majority in UP. How come?
I am saying that there was a public sentiment to tackle corruption and maladministration. I think they picked that moment of public sentiment and tried to turn it to the advantage of their own campaign. To an extent, they did a service to the nation by highlighting an important dimension of governance. I don’t mind conceding that they played a role, but I think thereafter they lost the balance.