On tour of Bihar after the Opposition rally in Patna, former deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav speaks to The Indian Express.
Where do you see your politics headed, now that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has become an NDA ally once again?
The CBI case against me in a 12-year-old matter on an afterthought clearly looks like a plan by Nitish, PM Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah to frame me, under a design to kill the idea of a national grand alliance in Bihar. As for my politics, I have gone back to the people to expose Nitish’s doublespeak of zero tolerance against corruption. Can he cite a single instance of irregularity during my tenure as deputy CM?
My next trip through Bihar will be to tell the people the truth about the biggest scam of Bihar, the Srijan scam. One under whose nose government funds had been siphoned off has no moral authority to talk of corruption. What was then finance minister Sushil Kumar Modi doing?
What were the first signs that the grand alliance could split soon?
I had a sense of unease on several occasions since February, when he (Nitish) started ignoring me… Nitish’s frequent Delhi visits in the name of MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) poll preparations were an eyewash. It was around March-April that the JD(U) opened channels of communication with the BJP. It was only about looking for a big excuse. The CBI case against me provided that excuse.
Weren’t you obstinate in refusing to resign, which might have saved the grand alliance for some time at least?
When I met the CM a week before the split, I asked him if he wants me to resign. He said no but insisted that I offer my version on the allegations against me. In retrospect, I think even my resignation would not have resolved the issue. He had made up his mind to go back to the NDA. Dar aur lalach (fear and greed) are the reasons for his leaving. He probably had sensed the Srijan scam exploding. Had he stayed back with us, the Centre would have targeted him. Second, he could have sensed that the grand alliance might not project him as its CM face in 2010. In a sense, he was afraid of me, a political rookie.
Nitishji will remain my uncle. My walls still have his photograph, but he is not a good uncle any longer, for I want him to tell the world his ideology—is it Mandal or Kamandal. I also want to ask him if it is his last political somersault.
What role does the RJD see for itself at the national level? Didn’t the absence of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati and Sharad Pawar at the August 27 rally not give the message that the Opposition unity is elusive?
The RJD is one party that has kept taking on the BJP, with our leader Lalu Prasad always standing up to Modi and the RSS. I have spoken to Rahulji, whose Norway trip was planned long back. Soniaji could not make it because of health reasons. Mayawati has set some conditions for seat-sharing but it shows that she is willing to be part of a national opposition. The attendance of as many as 19 parties is no mean feat. Our rally has set the tone for Opposition unity.
But who is the face of Opposition unity?
All top leaders can together decide. The Congress had not projected Manmohan Singh in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. Even collective leadership is not a bad idea.
There is talk that JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav could be given the role of national convenor if he crosses over.
Sharadji is a very senior leader and founded the JD(U). If all opposition parties think of the role of a national convener, nothing can be better than this.
Do you think the Centre has been responding faster to Bihar’s issues after Nitish joined the NDA?
It is Sushil Modi who is playing the ‘super CM’ these days in coordinating with the Centre on flood-relief assistance. But the Rs 500 crore announced is peanuts. And why did the PM not visit Bihar to assess flood damage last year? But all said and done, I hope and pray even the Rs 500 crore announced is given and does not end up being another BJP jumla.
Forget the PM’s Bihar camaraderie for a while, the Centre has not delivered anything concrete besides coining slogans. The failure of law and order in Haryana after the verdict on the Dera Sacha Sauda chief also shows how a BJP-ruled state treats the court.
How are you preparing to fight CBI case against you and how do you counter Opposition allegations of amassing wealth in an improper manner?
Our legal experts are looking into nitty gritty of it and we have already said what we have to say. We will tell it to investigating agencies and court. My father Lalu Prasad had clarified time and again that discussing case loopholes with media would alert CBI or ED to fill its missing gaps.