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'Team Anna has created a fallacious notion'

LK Advani turns 84 on November 8, a birthday he will probably celebrate with his supporters during the ongoing Jan Chetna Yatra. In a freewheeling interview, he explains why corruption has little to do with the absence of a Lokpal, unlike what Team Anna believes, his love for movies and the mending of the country's international image. But will he be the BJP's next candidate for PM? We still don't know

How do you manage to stay so fit at your age?
(Laughs) There is no magic mantra. I feel if a person is at peace with himself he'd be at peace with his body. My family has been taking good care of me. I'm a frugal eater. Breakfast is my main meal; I eat fruits, cornflakes and milk.


LK Advani addresses a press conference on the eve of his Jan Chetna
Yatra in New Delhi


Don't you feel hungry especially now when you are travelling non-stop?
Not at all! I've been like this for many years now. There is also a theory I believe in when it comes to consuming food that was told to me by a doctor in Escorts Hospital, when I had gone there to visit late Nana Deshmukh. The doctor had this thesis about food intake, 'When God created man, he decided how much food he should consume in his lifetime. It depends on the man whether he wants to consume the food destined to him, in 50 or in 70 years.'

How then do you get the energy to go through a Jan Chetna Yatra?
I became a member of the RSS at 14. I've always regarded the RSS, the Jan Sangh and the BJP as my ideological parivar (family) and their love, respect and support has sustained me through these years.

You are on a Jan Chetna Yatra against corruption. Do you think Anna Hazare has taken the crusade against corruption to a point of no return?
The first person to campaign against corruption was Jayaprakash Narayan. Under his leadership, we fought the Emergency, which was a battle against corruption and for democracy. This crusade against corruption has been a part of my life. Anna Hazare's name was not known to many before the recent events. When he met us we told him that the last Jan Lokpal Bill he framed had many flaws. All his colleagues, including Shanti Bhushan, Kejriwal and Negi, came to my residence for a two-hour discussion on the bill. We insisted that the flaws in the proposed Jan Lokpal Bill have to be changed and they agreed. I told them, 'You've created an impression that there's corruption in the country because there's no Jan Lokpal Bill.'

Is that impression fallacious?
Yes, it's fallacious. I told them that corruption in our country is not a result of inadequacy of legislation and laws. It's inadequacy of political will by those in (positions of) authority to curb corruption. I don't want to comment on Anna Hazare, except to say, we are with anyone who fights corruption.

There's a lot of talk about you aspiring to be the next PM.
What the country has given me is more than what I can get by becoming the Prime Minister. The yatra has nothing to do with LK Advani, the BJP or the next elections. It is to do with the loss of face we've suffered internationally. We had just begun to be be taken seriously in the eyes of the world as a vigorous democracy with the power of becoming an economic power in the 21st century. But suddenly India has earned a bad reputation in the world. I've been saying during my Yatra that the people in Delhi these days should not be regarded as representative of the entire India. Therefore, the issue during the current Yatra is about the country's reputation.

Several attacks have been planned on you during the Yatra? Do such incidents frighten you?
There was a planned attack in Tamil Nadu. Some villagers traced the bomb and reported the matter to AIDMK officials, who in turn informed the police and we were able to change the route on time. But such threats have been part of my life. Even during the elections of 1992, three suicide bombers were sent, two of who got killed in Coimbatore.

We have heard that you are very interested in movies. Is it true?
I've been a filmgoer since my school days, both Hindi and Hollywood films. I've even seen Ashok Kumar and Devika Rani in Achut Kanya, which goes back to a time when talkies had yet not started. For a long time Sanjeev Kumar was my favourite actor. But no one can be compared with Amitabh Bachchan.

You used to be a film critic?
I was a political writer in the Organiser. One day at our editorial meeting we felt the paper was too dry; that's when I decided to give film criticism a try.

Do you get time to watch films nowadays?
I watch films on DVD and occasionally in the theatre with my daughter Pratibha if she strongly recommends a film. But for several years I was too engrossed in my party work to see films. Then when I was visiting my maama (maternal uncle) in Mumbai I saw a news item in the paper that a viewer had died of shock while watching the horror film House Of Wax. I had to see the film. No, I wasn't frightened. The last film I saw in a theatre was Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and really liked it. I even mentioned this to my parliamentarian-colleague Javed Akhtar.

Hema Malini is part of your party. Do you think her beauty adds to the vote bank?
She isn't just a beautiful face but is also beautiful in discharging her duties as a party member.

Any final birthday thoughts?
I'd like to see young people in the country aspire to bring India to the forefront. In my school days, the only aspiration was the freedom of the country. Now the aspiration is to see our country as a global leader.
If we resolve not to be corrupt and force the government to bring back the huge amount of money that is illegally stashed abroad, it is possible to bring prosperity to India.

How do you manage to stay so fit at your age?
(Laughs) There is no magic mantra. I feel if a person is at peace with himself he'd be at peace with his body. My family has been taking good care of me. I'm a frugal eater. Breakfast is my main meal; I eat fruits, cornflakes and milk.

Don't you feel hungry especially now when you are travelling non-stop?
Not at all! I've been like this for many years now. There is also a theory I believe in when it comes to consuming food that was told to me by a doctor in Escorts Hospital, when I had gone there to visit late Nana Deshmukh. The doctor had this thesis about food intake, 'When God created man, he decided how much food he should consume in his lifetime. It depends on the man whether he wants to consume the food destined to him, in 50 or in 70 years.'

How then do you get the energy to go through a Jan Chetna Yatra?
I became a member of the RSS at 14. I've always regarded the RSS, the Jan Sangh and the BJP as my ideological parivar (family) and their love, respect and support has sustained me through these years.

You are on a Jan Chetna Yatra against corruption. Do you think Anna Hazare has taken the crusade against corruption to a point of no return?
The first person to campaign against corruption was Jayaprakash Narayan. Under his leadership, we fought the Emergency, which was a battle against corruption and for democracy. This crusade against corruption has been a part of my life. Anna Hazare's name was not known to many before the recent events. When he met us we told him that the last Jan Lokpal Bill he framed had many flaws. All his colleagues, including Shanti Bhushan, Kejriwal and Negi, came to my residence for a two-hour discussion on the bill. We insisted that the flaws in the proposed Jan Lokpal Bill have to be changed and they agreed. I told them, 'You've created an impression that there's corruption in the country because there's no Jan Lokpal Bill.'

Is that impression fallacious?
Yes, it's fallacious. I told them that corruption in our country is not a result of inadequacy of legislation and laws. It's inadequacy of political will by those in (positions of) authority to curb corruption. I don't want to comment on Anna Hazare, except to say, we are with anyone who fights corruption.

There's a lot of talk about you aspiring to be the next PM.
What the country has given me is more than what I can get by becoming the Prime Minister. The yatra has nothing to do with LK Advani, the BJP or the next elections. It is to do with the loss of face we've suffered internationally. We had just begun to be be taken seriously in the eyes of the world as a vigorous democracy with the power of becoming an economic power in the 21st century. But suddenly India has earned a bad reputation in the world. I've been saying during my Yatra that the people in Delhi these days should not be regarded as representative of the entire India. Therefore, the issue during the current Yatra is about the country's reputation.

Several attacks have been planned on you during the Yatra? Do such incidents frighten you?
There was a planned attack in Tamil Nadu. Some villagers traced the bomb and reported the matter to AIDMK officials, who in turn informed the police and we were able to change the route on time. But such threats have been part of my life. Even during the elections of 1992, three suicide bombers were sent, two of who got killed in Coimbatore.

We have heard that you are very interested in movies. Is it true?
I've been a filmgoer since my school days, both Hindi and Hollywood films. I've even seen Ashok Kumar and Devika Rani in Achut Kanya, which goes back to a time when talkies had yet not started. For a long time Sanjeev Kumar was my favourite actor. But no one can be compared with Amitabh Bachchan.

You used to be a film critic?
I was a political writer in the Organiser. One day at our editorial meeting we felt the paper was too dry; that's when I decided to give film criticism a try.

Do you get time to watch films nowadays?
I watch films on DVD and occasionally in the theatre with my daughter Pratibha if she strongly recommends a film. But for several years I was too engrossed in my party work to see films. Then when I was visiting my maama (maternal uncle) in Mumbai I saw a news item in the paper that a viewer had died of shock while watching the horror film House Of Wax. I had to see the film. No, I wasn't frightened. The last film I saw in a theatre was Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and really liked it. I even mentioned this to my parliamentarian-colleague Javed Akhtar.

Hema Malini is part of your party. Do you think her beauty adds to the vote bank?
She isn't just a beautiful face but is also beautiful in discharging her duties as a party member.

Any final birthday thoughts?
I'd like to see young people in the country aspire to bring India to the forefront. In my school days, the only aspiration was the freedom of the country. Now the aspiration is to see our country as a global leader.
If we resolve not to be corrupt and force the government to bring back the huge amount of money that is illegally stashed abroad, it is possible to bring prosperity to India.

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