‘One can’t survive by being anti anyone. We don’t restrict ourselves to any one grouping’

In this Idea Exchange,JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav talks about the reasons behind his party’s exit from the NDA, the RSS hold over the BJP and the road ahead for the JD(U). This session was moderated by Opinion Editor Vandita Mishra

Written by Vandita Mishra | Published:June 23, 2013 5:02 am

In this Idea Exchange,JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav talks about the reasons behind his party’s exit from the NDA,the RSS hold over the BJP and the road ahead for the JD(U). This session was moderated by Opinion Editor Vandita Mishra

Vandita Mishra: It is a fact that the JD(U)’s decision to quit the NDA is directly related to Narendra Modi’s elevation in the BJP. So why is it that both you and Nitish Kumar have refused to name him? Is it part of a strategy? Second,it is being said that the party did not support Nitish’s decision. Even Jaya Jaitly has said in an article in The Indian Express that you too were not in agreement with Nitish.

There were many reasons behind the decision to part ways with the BJP. The JD(U) was a national party when it joined the NDA 17 years ago. But with time,we shrank. Our alliance in Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh broke. We were not growing in the alliance. As far as Gujarat is concerned,we always had our reservations. The senior partner (BJP) needs to understand the feelings of its allies. Things were smooth in Bihar but over the last year,they took a turn for the worse. We fought the Maharajganj by-election as allies but the effort needed to win the seat was not put in. The seat went to the RJD.

Vandita Mishra: But when Nitish announced the decision to pull out of the alliance,the reason he gave was that an authoritarian,dictatorial style of leadership had come up in the BJP. It was clear that he was talking about Modi. So why not name him?

What Nitish said is true. We do not name him (Modi) because he was never an issue within the framework of the national agenda that governed the NDA for 17 years. We always found him outside the national agenda’s framework.

Coomi Kapoor: Now that the JD(U) is out of the NDA,won’t it hurt the party’s prospects in Bihar?

Earlier too,we have sacrificed power in the interest of the nation. The VP Singh government had the support of both the BJP and the Left. When we implemented Mandal,L K Advani took out a Rath Yatra. V P Singh and I decided to arrest Advani in Bihar despite the BJP’s warning that they would withdraw support if anything happened to Advani. We arrested him and the government fell. It was a sacrifice we made for our principles and the nation. It doesn’t matter whether we remain in power. What matters is secularism.

D K Singh: You said the JD(U) would return to the NDA if Advani is back at the helm in the BJP.

I never said that. The media made that up. After what happened in Gujarat,if you (BJP) tell us that he (Modi) will lead us,then that is not acceptable. All we had asked of the BJP was to nominate a leader who could have taken every section of the society along. We wanted a person from within the alliance and only after discussions with all the allies.

Vandita Mishra: You were responsible for Advani’s arrest during his rath yatra. Yet your party continued to be an ally of the BJP for 17 years despite the fact that Advani was the senior most leader of the party. Why?

There was mutual trust when Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee were at the helm of affairs in the BJP. Over the last two years,we have seen that Advani is no more a decision-making authority in the BJP. We told our allies about our reservations.

Coomi Kapoor: It is being said that the BJP had consulted you before appointing Modi as the chief of the election campaign committee. So why this sudden reaction?

It’s true. They had told us. It is their party’s internal matter who they appoint general secretary or campaign committee chief. But the speeches that were made that evening (after the appointment) were out of the framework of the national agenda. You (BJP) kept telling us to stay and you also said that you want to do justice to a mass leader.

Rakesh Sinha: Are you comfortable seeking the Congress’s support?

We never sought their support during the confidence motion in Bihar. They extended support. We are grateful for that.

D K Singh: Do you find the Congress today different from what it was in Ram Manohar Lohia’s time?

It has gone downhill. The country,it seems,is going in the reverse direction. Our PM thinks about the market. But the market has crashed. The rupee has hit an all-time low. Exports are down. All this is happening because you never realised the strength within. No other country has the kind of mineral wealth we have.

D K Singh: So you will not join hands with the Congress?

We have just chosen another path. We have not yet decided how and where we are going. There is a major force—Mamata Banerjee (TMC),Mayawati (BSP),Om Prakash Chautala (INLD),Jayalalithaa,BJD,Chandrababu Naidu—which is not allied with either the BJP or the Congress. The UPA will not get a majority in the 2014 elections. Even if we had stayed in the NDA,it would have been difficult to reach the 272 mark.

Rakesh Sinha: The BJD will discuss the issue of a federal front next month. Will you take part in the discussion?

We have never said no to discussions. But a sole party (BJD) can’t offer a solution.

Manoj C G: Mamata Banerjee has talked about floating a federal front and had discussions with Nitish. The Left too has had discussions with you in the past few days. Who would you prefer to ally with—the Left or Mamata?

That is a difficult question to answer. It will come to the fore when the country gives its verdict in 2014. Nitish and Mamata want their regions,which have remained backward,to progress. It does not mean they are forming an alliance.

Vandita Mishra: Can the demand for special status for backward states become the axis around which the new front will be formed?

It doesn’t work that way. Regions like Bundelkhand,Bihar,West Bengal,Assam,Bihar—regions,which were under the East India Company—are the most backward. This is a big chunk,but it would be wrong to predict that this region can forge a government.

Monojit Majumdar: Who do you think the Muslims in Bihar will vote for—the party which broke its alliance with the BJP or the one that stopped the (Advani) rath?

It was our government that fell when the rath was stopped,not of those who stopped it. The vote is important. But it is wrong to say that we are trying to appease a particular community. During the last elections,we won from Kishanganj and Bhagalpur. Both are Muslim-dominated areas.

Manoj C G: Goa Chief Minister and BJP leader Manohar Parrikar has said the Gujarat riots were a bad example of governance. How do you relate to that idea?

It is a fact that if a chief minister decides,riots cannot continue for long. BJP president Rajnath Singh has said as much in the Rajya Sabha that a chief minister can stop riots in two hours. Parrikar has said the same thing. Whatever happened there (Gujarat) was wrong. Absolutely wrong.

Coomi Kapoor: It is being said that in lieu of the Congress extending support to your government in Bihar,your party will walk the Congress line in the JPC on 2G.

It is not a business deal. We will not change the stand we have taken in the JPC.

Vandita Mishra: It is said that you were not in agreement with Nitish’s decision to quit the NDA.

I tried to save the alliance. I talked to both Nitish and the BJP. But they (BJP) never offered us a solution.

Y P Rajesh: You talked about how the Janata movement had brought together non-BJP and non-Congress parties together in the past and formed governments. But you could never survive a five-year term. What gives you the hope that it could be different this time?

Stability without progress has never done the country any good. We had that kind of stability for 55 years. But whenever we came to power,we did something for the country. We introduced Red Cards and Yellow Cards for cheap ration to BPL families. We brought the Mandal Commission to remove social disparity.

Y P Rajesh: While you talk of social justice,you also oppose 33 per cent reservation for women in electoral politics. How do you explain that?

I am ready for 100 per cent reservation to women. But that is not possible without removing social disparities. Incorporate the social realities of caste when you demand reservation for women.

D K Singh: Who is a bigger OBC leader? Someone like Narendrs Modi,who has come up in recent times,or those who bought about Mandal?

It is for you to think and decide.

rakesh sinha: Having worked with the BJP for so many years,what is the level of Sangh’s (RSS) intervention in party affairs?

It has always been there and was there even when we joined hands with the BJP. Our alliance was with the BJP,but ever since Vajpayee and Advani left the scene,things worsened.

Ravish Tiwari: You’ve always been anti-Congress. Have you become anti-BJP now?

No. In this country,one can’t survive by being anti anyone. Both the Congress and the BJP have supported us at different points. We don’t restrict ourselves to any one particular configuration. We’ve always been fighting against corruption and communalism whether we were alone or part of a coalition. In Karnataka,though we supported the BJP,we always wanted the Reddys to be shown the door. You could ask anyone from the BJP and they’ll tell you.

Irena Akbar: When the Gujarat riots were on,your party didn’t raise a voice,forget leaving the alliance.

Of course,we raised the issue…Atalji had assured us he’ll take some action. He once told me,‘I’m sadder than you. Have some patience. Let me come back from Gujarat. At least your stage is smaller; for me,it’s a bigger loss of face.’

D K Singh: Are you open about going back to the NDA?

We’ve just quit it. Meet me after 10-15 days and I’ll definitely do some straight-talk on this.

Vandita Mishra: You had a 17-year-long alliance with the BJP. Did you see the RSS stamp in the functioning of the BJP?

We’ve seen it all,but it was not there during the reign of Atalji. When Atalji took over the reins,he called us over. We set aside our individual objectives and decided on a national agenda.

Coomi Kapoor: Nitish spoke about the ‘authoritarian streak’ in the BJP that put him off. But people say that in Bihar,Nitish himself rules the state with an iron hand,doesn’t listen to anybody.

No. It’s not like this. If this were the case,he’d not listen to me too. But he listens to me. How could he not?

Coomi Kapoor: It’s said he doesn’t…

The media often glorifies the one who gets the chair while the one without it is underrated. We may not have the chair,but we are behind his ascension.

Ravish Tiwari: We have seen leaders like Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav coming out of 10 Janpath. Will you ever be seen there?

In today’s age,the public doesn’t give a fixed mandate…You want me to say things about them,but it’s possible I’ll need them tomorrow. Like they need me,I’ll also need them. So,don’t do this. This is not in the interest of the nation.

Ravish Tiwari: In the H D Deve Gowda experiment,Harkishan Singh Surjeet had played a pivotal role. You fit the bill for that role. Have you given it a thought?

In the last 40 years,I’ve learnt the tricks of the trade—how to handle different people differently. If I’ve to play that role,I’ll do it and tell you. Others may take credit for it,but I’ll have done my job. It’ll be a formidable situation in 2014. I visualise that it’s going to be a tough battle in 2014.

D K Singh: What kind of an alliance will it be in 2014?

How can I say this today? Give us some time to decide. All this while,we invested our time in making the NDA work. We didn’t even get the time to build our party structure.

Ravish Tiwari: Will the elections be held on time?

The Congress knows that. If it wants,it’ll be held earlier,else in 2014. This is not in our hands.

D K Singh: Had Advani assured you that Modi was not the PM candidate?

He held talks with us. So did Rajnathji,Sushmaji (Swaraj) and (Murli Manohar) Joshiji. We can’t make public our talks with them. We were just not satisfied.

D K Singh: If Modi is the PM candidate for a future NDA alliance,will the JD(U) be a part of it?

What you are asking is not going to happen. This country is much too complex. Your assessment is not right. I’ve already said that it’ll be neither the UPA nor NDA (that will win). Even if we were together,272 is a big number.

Vandita Mishra: If your leaving the BJP was certain,do you think its timing and method were not right?

We tried our best to save the NDA. That’s what all other parties wanted. But we didn’t see any solution to our problems.

Y P Rajesh: Do you think there is a generational shift happening across political parties?

This is a useless debate. The more a man sacrifices,the more he is valued. For instance,Nelson Mandela. What is a PM in front of such a man? A man’s sacrifice and dedication always count. You can’t farm in a flowerpot. You need fields,soil to do that.

D K Singh: What do you have to say about Rahul Gandhi’s prime ministerial potential?

I’ve been serving the country for the last 40 years,but you people will only exalt an influential family scion! I am made to suffer for where I was born. What do I tell you about Rahul? That’s something only his party and the nation can tell.

Ravish Tiwari: You have seen him in Parliament… heard his speech.

I can’t tell you about him merely by listening to his few speeches. It takes a great deal of time and understanding to know each other… And he hasn’t spoken that often.

Vandita Mishra: After the Maharajganj bypoll victory,there is talk of Lalu getting strengthened.

It was an RJD seat,but we are concerned about the margin of victory. There were many factors that contributed to that.

VANDITA MISHRA: Did RSS cadres work against you?

It was a section of the BJP.

D K Singh: In the configuration that will emerge later,who do you think will be stronger—the Congress or BJP?

It’s not right to speculate here. However,what’s certain is that the mandate will be more fractured in 2014. Not just fractured,there will be multiple fractures.

Transcribed by Sidheshwar Shukla and Nawaid Anjum

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