Media & BJP Govt: ‘Everyone Has Equal Access’ Says Meenakshi Lekhi
EXCLUSIVE: BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi discusses access journalism, liberalism, & ‘Lutyen’ snobbery in a candid interview
Camerapersons: Shiv Kumar Maurya and Mukul
Video Editor: Kunal Mehra
Noted lawyer and BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi is now a fiction writer. The Quint got a chance to have a conversation with her which involved all the buzzwords of the past five years, chanting in the parliament, and even sarees. Her book is a compendium of political chatter in the city and she hopes that this foray into pulp fiction will present a different side of her personality to people. Following is an excerpt from this interview:
Truth or Fiction?
You have taken every possible buzzword that we’ve heard in the past five years and put everything together in it.
Yes. Let me count those for you: “Lutyens”, “award wapsi gang”, “liberals”, “threat to democracy”, including “a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister.”
No... but this is the fun side of me. The plot... you have inspirations from all across, but this is a complete fiction. It doesn’t match any living being or any living incidence.
Raghav Mohan is not anybody that we’ve heard of?
No, absolutely not. It’s my brain’s creativity. That’s it.
And when people go crazy saying ‘RaMo, RaMo’, it doesn’t remind us of anything?
No, it shouldn’t. It’s your own perception.
(Interviewer reads from the book) “Vedika’s aura was further enhanced by her suave looks, which were a propitious blend of grace and elegance augmented further by her nifty collection of sarees, which she used to drape with a meticulous finesse that tossed a whiff of elitism around her.”
Vedika Khanna is totally not you, is it?
You have terrible sarees but Vedika Khanna has a fantastic collection.
No, I may have fantastic sarees and a fantastic collection but Vedika Khanna is a creation of Krishna Kumar. I was creating a jeans-clad journalist. He said, “No, journalists can’t have that access”.
That is exactly what I said. I mean, journalists have all that access to the government and to everything else. So, he said, “that’s what needs to be corrected.”
Stereotypes & Propaganda
But that’s stereotyping. I am not wearing a ‘jeans and t-shirt’. I’ve come in saree.
No... but you know the sarees and the ‘big bindis’ in the journalist circle are related to another class of people. I see very few journalists dressed in sarees. It’s a pleasant surprise to see you dressed in one. Not stereotyping but that’s the observation.
Aren’t you concerned that this would be seen as an element in the series of propaganda things that have come out?
But it will be silly. That’s their perception. I had my perception and my story to tell.
Meenakshi Lekhi, the Lawyer-Legislator
I want to make a small digression from the book to realpolitik. Here, we’ve seen and come across cases where people were killed for eating food or eating a certain kind of food.
Wayanad. I remember. A tribal was killed for stealing a roti. Should that happen?
Akhlaq was killed on suspicion of having beef in his house. That too happened. What is your personal response to that?
See, I feel rule of law is what should be followed with strictest possible methodology. There are animal rights. These laws have existed ever since the country became independent or even before that. And if laws are respected in their respective geographical areas, these problems would not happen in the first place. No matter what your personal belief is, that law needs to be followed.
But as a lawyer, do you feel that laws are also susceptible to misuse?
No, I think laws are not susceptible to misuse. Laws are meant to be obeyed. It’s disobedience that leads to chaos in society. You’re unhappy with the law? See to it that it gets amended. But as long as law exists, you’ve got to follow it.
Article 377, in a very revolutionary way, was amended in the country.
I welcome whatever has happened but I have a very different opinion. In 200 years of its existence, there has not been a single case of 377 registration. The cases which got registered under 377 were the cases of sodomy where young boys were being forcibly raped, which, I think is a cause of concern. What someone does in their bedroom is not my business and that’s how Indian society has lived. We don’t question people in their bedrooms.
But it just seems that it could be your food choices, attire, belief system or religion... everything has become a public performance of sorts. Do you feel that? Like the chanting in the Parliament, for example.
Why are you questioning the chanting? I think this is what the beauty of the Parliament is. This is what the beauty of the Constitution is. That somebody could get up and say “allah-u-akbar” and somebody could say “Jai Shri Ram”. Both exist and both are friendly with each other.
Are they friendly with each other?
Absolutely. Outside the Parliament, yes.
Beyond TV & Parliamentary Debates
Who is Meenakshi Lekhi apart from the class monitor-like persona in the Parliament when she is on the Speaker’s chair? Or when she is slaying the Congress party spokespersons on television?
So, that is the profession. That’s the job and anyone who knows me well knows that the training of a lawyer trains you that the moment you step out of the door, you don’t carry your files back home and you leave it within the courtroom or you leave it inside the Parliament house. As a person, I think I am a normal fun person. That’s what I believe. I don’t know how others perceive me.
This location is very interesting, ‘Lutyens’. The Lutyens bungalow which has been a much-maligned location. You are a ‘Lutyen wala’ now.
Not now. I was born and brought up here. I don’t think anyone can be more Lutyen than I am. I was brought up in this vicinity, in and around Delhi.
But what is this perception?
So, the perception is, you see, I feel, in every power structure, a caucus tends to generate. And that caucus, by virtue of Parliament being here, the seat of power being here, the whole country being controlled from here, happen to be the Lutyen. And the Lutyen where power brokers of all kinds were doing rounds of North Block, South Block... and these guys had access to every bit of information, whatever’s going on. That club was not open to entry or exit. With many in your profession, only a select few got that access, others didn’t.
That caucus has changed.
Nobody has access anymore!
Or each one has equal access, put it that way. So there are no preferences like X is closer to me and Y should not be given. And X should be enhanced in their career while Y suffers. And Y is suffering as a poor person, standing in the sun, round the clock and not getting any information. Others, over a drink, are getting all the information. So, these things, I think, are scoring points in terms of settling democracy in the right format.
The Liberal Identity
Are you a liberal? Would you identify yourself as a liberal?
Yes. But I wonder whether the so-called liberals will identify me as a liberal.
Why would you say that?
Because the definition is conflicting. As you read the book, you’ll understand. They are more conservative. They are always very protective about their select group and wouldn’t allow anyone else to barge in. I am a liberal. Anyone who is from whichever stream can come, walk up to me, discuss. I’ll openly condemn. I’ll openly accept. But I wonder whether the club will agree in accepting me as a liberal. I don’t know.
I am sure you have friends in the club.
I just hope I have some. And they are not backstabbers who will sit with me, chat with me, and publish something else behind my back!
So, who is this book intended for?
It is meant for people who generally enjoy conspiracies and...
The WhatsApp-forwarding janta...?
I would say the Khan Market type!
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