‘Ram Vilas Dalit face wherever you go, Jitan Ram Manjhi can be Mahadalit face’

Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan discusses Bihar politics, Parliament standoff and caste census. Excerpts from interviews to Santosh Singh in Patna and Liz Mathew in New Delhi.

Written by Santosh Singh , Liz Mathew | Updated: July 29, 2015 3:05 am
Ram Vilas Paswan,  Bihar elections, bihar assembly polls, Bihar politics, Bihar Ram Vilas Paswan, narendra modi, Nitish Kumar,  Jitan Ram Manjhi, bihar news, india news, nation news Ram Vilas Paswan in Patna Tuesday. (Source: Express photo by Santosh Singh)

You are often described as a docile partner in the NDA.
Everyone knows that the 2014 Lok Sabha victory happened because of the magic of one man, Narendra Modi. The BJP has a majority of its own. What is point in clashing with the BJP just for sake of exercising your influence? I am not a docile partner but known for the warmth of my friendship. Dilwar ke liye dildaar hain hum, dushman ke liye talwar hain hum [I am large-hearted to my loved ones and a sword to my enemies].

How do you react to the RLSP (an NDA partner) once demanding the Bihar CM’s post for Upendra Kushwaha?
I wonder why the BJP should give the CM’s position to a junior partner. It does not make sense. The BJP did consult me on the projection of a CM but I said they had the best cadre to give them the right answer.

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Is there any understanding that the CM will be from the BJP if the NDA wins?
I don’t know. But I am sure that it will not be me.

But aren’t there some differences over sharing of seats?
The BJP, as senior partner, will arrive at the right conclusion after due consultations with us. Given my seniority in politics, if I say something or put something in writing, it will be valued. But I will not do so to exercise influence unnecessarily.

Are you comfortable about another Dalit leader, Jitan Ram Manjhi, sharing space with you?
[In Patna] Where is the question of conflict? Rather, we complement each other with our strengths and following. Manjhi and I do not enter each other’s political space. I look at him as a brother.

[In New Delhi] There can be more than one Dalit face. Ram Vilas Paswan can be the national face, but in states there can be others. What Nitish Kumar did was divide the Dalits into two groups. Ram Vilas Paswan is the Dalit face wherever you go. But Manjhi can be a Mahadalit face.

The RJD and the JD(U) have accused the NDA of provoking communal clashes to win the elections.
I would say the reverse. It is they who are thinking in terms of caste and communal polarisation.

Some parties have been demanding the release of caste census data. What is your stand?
The main reason for not releasing the data it is that the state governments have not yet given their reports. We in the LJP demand that the government should not just present a report because that does not benefit the communities. The government should give socio-economic details of each community including how many of them are in government jobs, how many have land, how many are skilled etc. There should be details about how many of those skilled have lost their jobs. For example, in Bihar we have Nai Tamoli, Teli, Lohar, Barai, Mallar, Nishad, Chourasia, Kanu, Tanuk, Pal, Chandravamsi etc. But now Lohars have lost their jobs — they were making vessels but now vessels come from China… A simple caste report will not be enough; it should have their social and economic status, and an action-taken report on what was done for each community. If it is done, the most influential caste will be Yadav and Kurmi of Lalu and Nitish respectively.
Reservation should be given to the deprived… People will realise Lalu’s and Nitish’s castes were taking the benefits.

How does the government plan to break the stalemate in Parliament?
The most important thing is that the House has to run one day or the other. It is quite natural that the Opposition raise issues if the government makes a mistake, that they raise demands, but how long you would keep doing so? What’s the issue here? The government has said we are ready to debate the matter and clarify things. A probe is on and if someone is guilty, there will be action. But the Opposition says resign first. The people will decide who is right and who is wrong. A debate will make things clear to them. After all, we will have to go back to them in the fifth year.

But the current Opposition says the BJP had stalled Parliament when in opposition; you were part of UPA then.
There is a huge difference between the two instances. Whether it was the 2G or the coal scam, it was an issue directly linked to corruption. There was a CAG report indicting the ministers. You cannot compare that situation with that of Sushma Swaraj. She has not taken money for doing anything for him [Lalit Modi].

Do you agree with the agriculture minister’s statement that love affairs and impotency are among the reasons behind farmers’ suicides?
What the minister said was on the basis of the report of the National Crime Records Bureau. According to the report, depression due to impotency or failure of love affairs are reasons for suicide. A cabinet minister, when answering a question, will base his answers on reports. It wasn’t a discussion but a written reply.

Do you expect Muslims to vote for the NDA in Bihar?
The NDA should get Muslim votes. Muslims voted for the Shiv Sena after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Under NDA rule, nothing against Muslims has happened. There has been no communal riot. When the Muslims shed their fears of communal riots and look at Modi’s initiatives for development, people will reject those who speak about communalism and casteism.

Besides, I think the land bill despite its controversies will benefit the NDA in Bihar, because people there want infrastructure and industries. People are eager to sell their land for factories and the government is offering four times the market price and jobs for the families. It will be beneficial to us.

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