Since the NDA split in Bihar, former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi has been playing on Narendra Modi’s image and background to take on Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. In this interview, the BJP legislature party leader discusses the party’s election strategies:
How is the BJP so confident of outperforming Nitish Kumar, unchallenged as he has been for eight years?
All poll surveys have indicated as much. Nitish may be dismissive of these surveys, but the fact remains that the people want a stable government at the Centre under the leadership of Narendra Modi. They have largely started believing that voting for the JD(U) will mean little in the Lok Sabha as Nitish is at best working as a B team of the Congress.
Why do you feel the stock of Nitish Kumar, the face of development until recently, has fallen so sharply in the eight months since the NDA split?
This is not an assembly election where Nitish could have flaunted his development image. This is the Lok Sabha and Nitish is not a PM candidate. The majority of voters are unconvinced by his image of “secular on second thoughts”. After all, he had been with us for 17 years. There is a general feeling among the people that Nitish has betrayed the 2010 mandate by snapping ties with us.
Does the spurt of communal clashes since the split signify a polarisation?
There is no clear hint of polarisation yet but Nitish has been trying to vitiate the atmosphere by instilling a sense of fear in the people. He rakes up secularism at every public speech and attacks Narendra Modi, whom he is afraid of. The recent rise in communal clashes (87 incidents between June and December 2013 as against 24 during the corresponding period of 2012) shows how he has lost control after parting ways with us.
But it is Nitish who has been playing up the demand for special-category status for Bihar.
It is a charade. I want to ask why the state has been able to realise investment only of Rs 5,000 crore in eight years when we had received proposals worth Rs 3 lakh crore. So many prospective investors have returned because we were unable to provide them land. So, special status alone is not enough. We too support that demand but have gone a step further by demanding special assistance of Rs 50,000 crore.
Is the BJP seeking to bring caste politics back by playing up Narendra Modi’s EBC and tea vendor backgrounds?
We believe people from all sections will vote in Narendra Modi’s name. It is true we have been talking about his humble background, his tea vendor continued…
He made several people join BJP by dialing membership number and said, "he has rights on their votes".