Team Anna member Kiran Bedi has said that they are neither anti-Congress, nor pro-BJP. Also, claiming that the findings of the CAG report in the coal blocks allocations case were too alarming to wait for the final report for action to be taken, Bedi reiterated the Team's calls for an independent probe against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and 14 other UPA ministers.
Speaking to Karan Thapar on Devil's Advocate, Bedi, however, insisted that she was not questioning the PM's personal integrity.
Below is an edited transcript of the interview
Karan Thapar: Hello and welcome to Devil's Advocate. Is Team Anna's targeting of the Prime Minister proof that they have lost their way and got their priorities mixed up? That's the key question I shall explore today with key Team Anna member Kiran Bedi. Mrs Bedi, let's start with Team Anna's targeting of the Prime Minister and let's begin with the language. Almost two weeks after Prashant Bhushan spoke out, would you accept that he exceeded the bounds of decorum and decency when he called the Prime Minister 'shikhandi'?
Kiran Bedi: I think this has been explained on your programme. You did mention this. Basically, what Prashant meant at that time is that a Prime Minister's perceived integrity is being used as a shield. And that shield to shield the corrupt who are members of his team.
Karan Thapar: But there are offensive ways of saying it and there are inoffensive ways of saying it. And the word 'Shikhandi' not only has annoyed people, Justice Hegde went on record and he is a key member of your team, to disassociate himself from the language. He said it was rude and he said it was inappropriate. So would you accept that Prashant used the wrong words?
Kiran Bedi: No. I think if you look at 'Shikhandi', it means a shield. So it's the way you perceive it.
Karan Thapar: It also means a person of indeterminate gender. It has all sorts of implications. By using this word, Prashant has opened up himself to the accusation that he was being rude.
Kiran Bedi: First of all, it also means a shield. So which one you pick is your choice. But let's not go into the word. Let's see what did he say. Look at the evidence he has produced. I think we need to thank the Bhushans and Arvind Kejriwal for the kind of evidence they have collected.
Karan Thapar: I will come to the evidence in moment's time. I am sticking to the word and the language because it has created so much controversy. A year ago when Congress general secretary BK Hari Prasad said that Anna Hazare was Hitler in a Gandhi cap, you and your colleagues were furious. Justice Hedge publicly said this was highly objectionable. Today, how can you defend the same loose language against the prime minister? Isn't that double-standard?
Kiran Bedi: As I said, the word has two meanings, choose the word. We think that's what he said. I have used the word as a shield and that's a fact that prime minister's personal integrity is being used as a shield to shield the 14 corrupt. Look I have the files.
Karan Thapar: Do you have no regrets about the choice of the word Shikhandi?
Kiran Bedi: This is his choice and he has a right to choose his words snd he has explained to you. And why are you spending so much of time on this word. Look at the material I have.
Karan Thapar: Because so many people have been deflected by the word that they haven't come around to the substance. I will come to the substance but the word is grabbing the attention.
Kiran Bedi: I have already answered.
Karan Thapar: You have no regrets.
Kiran Bedi: How can I regret for his words? he's explained to you why he used the word. And for him, it was a shield.
Karan Thapar: It's divide Team Anna. Justice hedge has publicly objected to that. Does that not worry you that your team is divided over Prashant's language?
Kiran Bedi: We are not divided on that.
Karan Thapar: But Justice Hedge publicly objected.
Kiran Bedi: We are not divided and everyone of us have a personal opinion to give.
Karan Thapar: Many people who sympathise and even support the case you are bringing against the prime minister and ministers, object to the language. They think that there is a certain decorum that a certain Indian way of addressing the authority which you breach. Do you not regret that you have created a needless a controversy by using the word which you shouldn't have used?
Kiran Bedi: Prashant has already clarified, I don't need to clarify it any further that he used it as a shield.
Karan Thapar: Let's now come to the substance of the allegation you brought against the prime minister. You have demanded an enquiry into the allocation of the coal blocks when he was in-charge of the coal ministry on the basis of the fragments of the leaked CAG report. CAG itself says that it does not constitute our pre-final draft, hence it's exceedingly misleading. How can you depend on a draft as the CAG itself says that it's misleading?
Kiran Bedi: Listen, I also have the draft.
Karan Thapar: It's a leaked report and it's been not authenticated by the CAG.
Kiran Bedi: No no. The coal blocks number change. CAG has not denied the number of coal blocks.
Karan Thapar: Mrs Bedi, the report is, leaked and the CAG has itself said that it is very preliminary and exceedingly misleading.
Kiran Bedi: But it has not denied the number of coal blocks.
Karan Thapar: But that is a detail.
Kiran Bedi: No, that's not a detail. The sting is in the detail.
Karan Thapar: The inference that you are drawing is that some hanky-panky took place in the allocation of coal blocks, That inference is not drawn from numbers, that inference is a conclusion that is being called exceedingly misleading. It's called very preliminary. So I come back, how can you demand an enquiry on the basis of report, that is leaked with the CAG himself that it is very preliminary and misleading.
Kiran Bedi: Have you read this Karan before interviewing me?
Karan Thapar: Yes, I have.
Kiran Bedi: These block numbers cannot change. Out of 216 coal blocks, our honourable prime minister allocated 145 during his four year tenure.
Karan Thapar: How does that matter. He may have allocated 248.
Kiran Bedi: No. The manner in which he allocated are not transparent. The windfall loss to the country has been Rs 10,000 crore. It wipes out your deficit.
Karan Thapar: Mrs Bedi you would have a point to make if the CAG is standing by that report. It's not.
Kiran Bedi: Let the CAG take away this windfall loss. Listen, even if the windfall loss is Rs 4 lakh thousand crore, do you know this wipes out your deficit of the budget.
Karan Thapar: Mrs Bedi all of that would be true if the CAG stood by the report. But if the CAG himself is saying it's misleading, what basis does it have? Your allegation may be based on a quick
Kiran Bedi: Do you know the final report is not being tabled. I believe that the final report was given to the government three days before the session. They didn't table it.
Karan Thapar: But you haven't seen it.
Kiran Bedi: Let's have another devil's advocate after the report is tabled.
Karan Thapar: You twice said to me that let's wait till the final report is tabled.
Kiran Bedi: I only said, if you wish. We believe that this report is right.
Karan Thapar: How do you know this? Are you saying that the CAG has leaked the report to you?
Kiran Bedi: The number of coal blocks allocated no-transparently without a bid, causing windfall losses is irrefutable. Before I came for the interview, have you heard Mr Parakh, coal secretary, interview on the television? He has said corruption has happened.
Karan Thapar: That is another matter. You are saying that the allegation of corruption is directly attributable to the prime minister. You are relying on a leaked report which the CAG itself is not authenticating, the CAG is calling it misleading. I am asking a simple question - should you have not waited for the final report before you demanded enquiry?
Kiran Bedi: Sorry I can't. This is a report which will stand test of the time.
Karan Thapar: The CAG is disowning it.
Kiran Bedi: That's exactly we are asking for, an independent special investigation team. If we have gone wrong, the Bhushans have gone wrong or I and Arvind or the Team Anna has gone wrong, we can be hauled up for that. But this could not be held back anymore.
Karan Thapar: Let's not carry on about whether this report has authenticity or not because I have already told you many times and you have accepted that this is a leaked report and the CAG itself is denying.
Kiran Bedi: Karan, the windfall loss is almost equal to the deficit of our budget.
Karan Thapar: It was only worth knowing if it was authenticated but it is a leaked report. The CAG says it is misleading.
Kiran Bedi: How do you know?
Karan Thapar: Because the CAG's letter to the prime minister was published in the newspaper but the CAG stood by it and doesn't deny the letter.
Kiran Bedi: I also have this report. Then either I am right or you are right.
Karan Thapar: The CAG is right.
Kiran Bedi: No. I have their report, the draft report. You just have what they are saying.
Karan Thapar: You are admitting that it is a draft report?
Kiran Bedi: Yes, I have been saying it since the beginning. It is a draft report.
Karan Thapar: Then the final can be very different. Why aren't you waiting for that?
Kiran Bedi: Is it substantially wrong, the windfall loss?
Karan Thapar: We don't know. It can come out to be completely wrong. The CAG says it is very preliminary, it doesn't even constitute our pre-draft.
Kiran Bedi: The Coal Secretary has also mentioned in it and he is authenticating what the CAG said and is saying that the corruption could have been avoided.
Karan Thapar: Let me put this to you. Why is that Anna Hazare, who heads you team and whose name you serve, has publicly declared the Prime Minister to be innocent? Let me quote him to you.
Kiran Bedi: No, he didn't say that. Nobody is talking about his personal integrity.
Karan Thapar: Hang on for a moment. Let me quote him to you.
Kiran Bedi: Somebody has benefited. Those coal blocks were allocated to non-power, non-cement companies.
Karan Thapar: Don't you want to hear what Anna Hazare said? Just a moment, I am going to quote to you what Anna Hazare said in Thane on Thursday, just three days ago. He said, "Manmohan Singh is an honest person and there is no direct evidence of his involvement in corruption." Thursday, three days ago, Anna Hazare doesn't believe in the allegations you, Prashant and Arvind Kejriwal are bringing against the Prime Minister. How do you explain that?
Kiran Bedi: Nobody said the prime minister is personally dishonest. Nobody said that, nor does this report say. But it says that what the Prime Minister did as the minister of coal caused a national loss which comes under the prevention of corruption act causing wrongful loss to other parties.
Karan Thapar: This is Anna Hazare's words - "There is no direct evidence of his involvement in corruption".
Kiran Bedi: That's what exactly we are saying.
Karan Thapar: No, you are saying he is guilty of prevention of corruption act.
Kiran Bedi: Listen, I am saying look at the Rs 10,000 crore of windfall loss this has caused. Let's wait. There can be change of figures
Karan Thapar: But this is not CAG report. You are jumping the gun.
Kiran Bedi: I am not jumping the gun. You don't even have a document. I have a draft report.
Karan Thapar: Which is considered exceedingly misleading.
Kiran Bedi: You are going by your say, I am going by a draft report.
Karan Thapar: You are going by a very preliminary pre-final draft, which the CAG says doesn't even constitute their pre-draft.
Kiran Bedi: You are going by your say, I am going by a draft report.
Karan Thapar: I am going by what the CAG said in the public and was printed in the newspapers.
Kiran Bedi: You don't even have a document to say that. I have a leaked report.
Karan Thapar: Their letter was published in 'The Indian Express', 'The Hindu', 'The Times of India' and 'The Hindustan Times' etc.
Kiran Bedi: Okay, you are going by a letter published and I am going by a draft report.
Karan Thapar: It is CAG's letter.
Kiran Bedi: Okay, the point is your letter, my draft report. Let's wait for the final report.
Karan Thapar: That's fascinating. You are going by a CAG draft report but when the CAG itself is saying that the report is misleading, you don't believe it. You being selective.
Kiran Bedi: No, I have the draft report. You just have their hearsay.
Karan Thapar: Mrs Bedi, let's widen our discussion. How do you explain that you have no compunction leveling allegations against the UPA Prime Minister, 14 UPA ministers, but you are completely silent on Yeddyurappa in Karnataka, about Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh, against Nishank in Uttarakhand and you haven't said a word about Narendra Modi despite the fact that in the last two months two CAG reports alleging corruption over Rs 20,000 crore in Gujarat were made public. Why is UPA in your sights and no other party?
Kiran Bedi: Okay, before I answer this question.
Karan Thapar: This is a critical question.
Kiran Bedi: I will answer this question but I have not wrapped up my first section. Out first section demand is a special investigation team, which independently looks into the allegations we are making under the Prime Minister as the Coal Minister and all these 14 ministers in the Cabinet of which he is the leader.
Karan Thapar: Now, come back to my point. Why are you picking on the UPA and silent about the BJP, Mayawati, Nishank and Narendra Modi?
Kiran Bedi: I will certainly come to it.
Karan Thapar: No, answer my question.
Kiran Bedi: The point is the Prime Minister is the leader of these 14 and we haven't received an answer on this. Is this right? Because the PM is the leader of this team.
Karan Thapar: You are silent on it. You haven't said a word on Yeddyurappa.
Kiran Bedi: I'll answer. What is the key goal of Anna Hazare's entire anti-corruption movement? To get a strong Lokpal bill and who can introduce this strong Lokpal bill, it is the government in the power. And who is the government in power at the Centre? It is the Congress, which is the larger majority. Our goal is the Lokpal bill, which has to come from the Congress.
Karan Thapar: Does this answer my question?
Kiran Bedi: Yes, it answers your question.
Karan Thapar: How?
Kiran Bedi: Because the UPA can get us a strong Lokpal bill. Our cause is to bring in a strong criminal justice system beginning with the Lokpal bill.
Karan Thapar: Then why not expose all corruption? Why not tackle Yeddyurappa, Mayawati, Nishank and Narendra Modi?
Kiran Bedi: No. Listen they are not sitting in Parliament. We are targeting those sitting in Parliament. Our focus is Parliament.
Karan Thapar: No, nojust a moment. One of the reasons why the Lokpal bill hasn't cleared Parliament is because of the opposition from various parties including the BJP, Mayawati's party and in particular some of the regional parties about which you are silent. If the Lokpal is your concerned then raise their corruption that would open the way rather than thinking that by just raising Congress's corruption it would open the way.
Kiran Bedi: You haven't read our demand. Our demand is special investigation team which investigates allegations against the Prime Minister, his 14 Cabinet minister against whom we have the evidence and also have special courts which try all these offences.
Karan Thapar: I think you are going into the details but avoiding my question.
Kiran Bedi: No, I am not avoiding. I am saying we want these to go to special courts.
Karan Thapar: My question is
Kiran Bedi: You are not even letting me answer.
Karan Thapar: Because you are not answering my question.
Kiran Bedi: I am saying we want them to go to special courts.
Karan Thapar: But you aren't saying a word about Yeddyurappa.
Kiran Bedi: Yeddyurappa is not sitting in Parliament. Mayawati support is there.
Karan Thapar: The BJP government is in power in Karnataka. The BJP government against which the CAG in Gujarat has filed reports of corruption.
Kiran Bedi: Sorry, Karnataka will not get me the Lokpal bill. Parliament gets me the Jan Lokpal bill, the Congress gets me the Jan Lokpal bill.
Karan Thapar: You praised the Uttarakhand government for delivering a model Lokpal bill in the state then why not raise allegations of corruption against Nishank? Why you silent there? If you praised Uttarakhand and you did it in such big way, why not raise allegations against Nishank?
Kiran Bedi: Perfect. It's the focus.
Karan Thapar: What's the focus?
Kiran Bedi: The focus is to get out the Jan Lokpal bill from Parliament and you forget that there was a unanimous resolution by Parliament for an effective Lokpal as Lokayuktas. Parliament has gone back, the Prime Minister has gone back.
Karan Thapar: Is this not an elaborate excuse for being anti-Congress?
Kiran Bedi: Absolutely not. We have said appoint special courts which transfers from the CBI Mulayam's cases, Mayawati's cases to the special courts.
Karan Thapar: But you are not very public in your acquisitions and allegations against Mulayam Singh, Mayawati, Yeddyurappa or Nishank and or Narendra Modi. I keep coming back to it because the charge against you is that you have now become an anti-Congress campaign. You have taken strides and a result people who looked upon you as a social movement that they supported, a moral movement that they admired, they think you have become a political movement and you are no better than a politician.
Kiran Bedi: This is your perception because you never saw how we went up in the UP campaign. You didn't see how we went up in Karnataka speaking. When we were in a state, we pointed out the state corruption but when we are in the centre, we are talking about the government in the power. That's the focus and that will remain the focus.
Karan Thapar: The country first got this illusion when in the state elections last year, during the by-elections you took a consistent anti-Congress stand and you were silent about BJP and INLD supporters whose corruption allegations were so much greater.
Kiran Bedi: Karan, if the BJP was in the power at the Centre, we would have equally not spared it. But the party in power which is in the majority is the Congress. It is the only one which can introduce an effective and powerful Lokpal bill.
Karan Thapar: You really believe this is a convincing answer?
Kiran Bedi: I don't know about it that whether I am convincing you or not. I am not here to convince you, I am here to reach out to the listeners.
Karan Thapar: Do you really think they will convinced by this or they'll say that she is simply creating an excuse?
Kiran Bedi: You are not even letting me explain. Do you know that it's the Congress in power that is keeping the CBI with it. The BJP and the Left parties want the CBI independent of the party power.
Karan Thapar: Except that when the BJP was in the power, it didn't do anything about getting rid of the CBI.
Kiran Bedi: You not even letting me completing. It is the party in the power. They are looking for a consensus in the CBI to remain under the political control. It's the BJP which is raising this voice. I am not pro-BJP or anti-Congress. The point is that this is the fact of the matter. It is the Congress in power which is holding on to the CBI and that is why we want the cases of Mulayam Singh, Mayawati out of the CBI to go to the special investigation team, which means expeditious trial even for them.
Karan Thapar: So, this is why the Congress is at the Centre of your target?
Kiran Bedi: Absolutely. Because the centre of our focus is an effective Lokpal bill with independence to the CBI.
Karan Thapar: Mrs Bedi a pleasure talking to you.
Kiran Bedi: Thank you so much.