Sharing the stage with former finance minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Thursday that the next election will be between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the people of the country, a view which Sinha seemed to share.
The two leaders shared stage at the release of book "Tidings of Troubled Times" written by Congress leader Manish Tewari and said ideology and values of a political party matter much more than personalities.
Answering queries during the discussion following the release of book by Sinha, Kejriwal said the next general election will be a battle between Modi and the people.
"What I am able to see is that 2019 election will be fought by the people, not parties. This battle will be between your (pointing to Sinha) leader, your big leader and the people. Whether Opposition parties will come together or not, that is arithmetic. That is also necessary in electoral politics but a churning is taking place. The coming election will not be opposition versus BJP. It will be BJP versus the rest of the country," he said.
The Aam Aadmi Party leader said a man can leave taking food once a day but cannot compromise with his freedom.
"You cannot imagine the atmosphere of fear that is prevailing among people. Across the board traders, industralists are living in fear. There is fear in stock market. Across the board people are scared that there will be a notice, income tax, ED people will come."
Sinha backed Kejriwal's remark about people shaping politics in the run up to 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
"I will like to take you to remark that Arvind Kejriwalji made that sometimes the people take over and the people decide what is best for the country. I think we will have to give people a chance."
Sinha also hit back at Finance Minister Arun Jaitley over his reference to him as "job applicant at 80" and also disagreed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's assessment in a speech on Wednesday about the fundamentals of the economy.
Answering a query that if BJP takes action against him, Sinha said "that will be the best day of my life" but added that he had done nothing that can call for such an action.
Sinha, whose article slamming the government's management of economy besides demonetisation and GST roll out has triggered a debate, said he had given his "sweat and blood" for the BJP and termed the present personality-oriented politics as "a passing phase".
Asked the way forward for him, Sinha said: "I can't answer that question as yet because you are not acting in isolation. The context is something that I don't control. The context is controlled by circumstances. At this point I want to say, nothing has been worked out.
He said more people should speak their mind.
"I am already feeling satisfied that a debate has started and I will feel more satisfied if more and more people were to pick up courage and say what they feel. That will be the real satisfaction."
Sinha, who has been criticising the government particularly on handling of the economy, agreed with Kejriwal that an "atmosphere of fear" prevails in the country and urged people to stand up against it. While countering these, he, however, did not name either the prime minister or the finance minister.
"Am past caring. That will be the best of my life ... because, for the simple reason that I don't think I am doing anything which calls for action," Sinha said when asked whether he was worried that the BJP could take action against him for sharing the dais with the two opposition leaders.
He said he had grown up in an atmosphere where a politician having relations with leaders from other parties was not akin to "feeling compromised". At another point, he said the BJP "is my party as much as it is of any of its members".
Sharing Kejriwal's view that an "atmosphere of fear" prevails in the country, Sinha observed, "fear and democracy cannot go together."
'In the entire Kaurava clan, only two became infamous, Duryodhan and Dushasan'
The BJP leader also responded to the 'Shalya' remarks reportedly made by the prime minister on Thursday. "Shalya", uncle of two of the five Pandava brothers --Nakul and Sahadev -- in Mahabharat, was a powerful mace fighter and a formidable charioteer who was tricked by Duryodhan to fight war on the side of the Kauravas.
Referring to that remark, Sinha said after being tricked by Duryodhan, Shalya had become a charioteer of Karna.
He went on to say, "The Kauravas were 100 brothers. If I ask you to name the third brother, you will not be able to (tell) or even I will not be able to unless I refer to the Mahabharat. So, a situation arose, where 100 brothers who constituted the Kaurava clan, out of them only two became infamous, Duryodhan and Dushasan. Do I need to say anything more?"
'Democracy isn't merely numbers'
On a serious note, Sinha observed that democracy is not merely numbers.
"The soul of democracy is consensus. So even if you have the numbers, you have to reach out to other people and parties to try and get them along," Sinha said recalling the days in Indian politics when stalwarts like Chandra Shekhar and Atal Bihari Vajpayee (both former Prime Ministers) set high ethical standards in politics.
"Nobody talked about Mukt-this Mukt-that because we are all part of the democratic process and we know that democracy means discussion, debate and an evolution of consensus based on these discussion," Sinha said in a clear attack on BJP's "Congress-mukt Bharat" (congress-free India) slogan.
"And if debates and discussions don't take place, consensus will not be there and that will kill the very fabric of democracy," he said, stressing the need to have dissenting voices in a healthy democratic set-up.
Sinha said that the first lesson he learnt in politics from the likes of Chandra Shekhar, Vajpayee and L.K. Advani was that "whatever your political persuasions may be, don't allow those differences to affect your personal relations".
"So when I was approached to come to this function to release the book by Manish Tewari, I readily agreed...I know the company I will be photographed with. It sends some message. I must also say I really don't care," he said.
"Some people believe that at this ripe old age of 80, I am perhaps looking for a job. Now, I come from a part of the country that has produced a famous character. His name is Babu Kunwar Singh.
"Babu Kunwar Singh became a major freedom fighter in the first war of Independence of 1857. When he joined the war he was 80 years old. So there is no age bar for fighting for freedom," Sinha said.
"Let me tell you that darr (fear) and democracy don't go together. And we will all have to strive together. Because at the end of the day we have to maintain the greatest tradition of parliamentary democracy. Let us stand up and face it," Sinha said.
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