Your rallies are drawing a lot of attention. What do the crowds mean?
It has been overwhelming. Seems like the people of Bihar did not get to connect with anyone or speak to anyone in a long time. It was the Mann Ki Baat model, the no-press-conference model. Office-bearers and leaders would come and talk but do not give (people) any indication that they had been heard. My colleagues and I have had our ears to the ground ever since the ill-planned lockdown triggered all kinds of crises and have been trying to hear what the people of Bihar are trying to say. I think they now feel heard.
What is your alternative model of growth?
It is very simple. We are not promising a lot of new things. We are promising to fix things that already exist and have provisions under various programme budgets. We are putting people and their needs back at the centre of things, instead of facilitating some headline-grabbing prestige or vanity projects. Our belief has been to fix what is broken and then build on that. When we were in power, it was about social justice. Now it is building on the gains of social justice and focusing on economic justice for all.
You have based your campaign around your promise of 10 lakh government jobs. How did this idea come up and how much does it have to do with economic distress?
Over the last year or so, out of every 10 youths I met, nine were jobless. That’s when I made up my mind to find a solution. I worked closely with my advisor, research team, economists and then readied a blueprint for providing 10 lakh jobs which will be signed off in my first Cabinet meeting.
But your critics say the plan is financially untenable. The BJP has been promising 19 lakh jobs but that’s including the private sector.
The first instinct of the BJP-JD(U) leaders is to always refute objective facts with obfuscation. If 10 lakh jobs are untenable, how is their plan of 19 lakh jobs tenable? My job plan is well researched and workable, which you will see in our term.
Explained | Tejashwi, the challenger
Bihar politics has often been about social combination. What is RJD bringing to the table besides its core votes?
Like I said earlier, our progressive and practical agenda. It is simple to understand, not very difficult to execute. What we are bringing to the table is a bold and confident resolve to fix what is broken. Besides what one calls our core votes, we are bringing the support of our youth.
Your party has given more tickets across castes. Are you trying to break out of the RJD’s traditional Muslim-Yadav mould?
I empathise with the aspirations of my young brothers and sisters. You can see this connection and sense of belongingness with them in my rallies which are very receptive and responsive. Inclusivity is core to our ideology. We have always taken care of all sections. It’s just that people are seeing our ticket distribution with a neutral prism this time.
How do you react to the PM’s “jungle ka yuvraaj” remark? The CM has also targeted your family.
The PM can say whatever he wants. If he wants to attack me, he is more than welcome. But there are a few things he, or his speech writers, must decide so that there is some clarity: he can either launch personal attacks on opponents or present himself as the victim. He can either project a statesman-like image, like he tries to do on international platforms, or consistently use language that even his opponents would not like to dignify with a response. It does not look good when he does both.
These all are manufactured portrayals with no basis. Nowhere in the world does a party which has been in power for 15 years seek re-election by abusing opposition leaders, holding predecessors responsible for their own failures. The BJP-JD(U) government is doing exactly this. I want to ask them: how does it help Bihar, why don’t you seek votes on your report card? I am starting afresh with a clean slate and will seek appraisal in the next election exclusively on my performance. Mark my words.
Your opponents say you have kept your parents Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi out of your posters because that would have invoked fears of their “misrule”. You’ve been sort of a lone ranger, holding 12-13 rallies a day.
We are transparent about the internal workings of our party. There is no attempt whatsoever to hide anything or anyone.
This is a collective fight and all leaders and workers of the party are sweating out in the field. But naturally, being the captain of the ship,
I have greater responsibility and need to cover each constituency.
In Patna, the posters are either of you or Narendra Modi. The BJP is asking for votes in the PM’s name.
This contradicts their claim that Nitishji is their CM candidate or I don’t know if Narendra Modi has been made the NDA’s CM candidate now. This would be best answered by the NDA camp.
Is the RJD rethinking its stand on the EWS quota, especially when you are talking about taking everyone along?
One is not to grow the size of the pie and hence, is carving the existing one into smaller pieces. Also, with the new education policy and the way the public sector is being gutted, where is the question of more seats or openings? Even what exists is being taken apart. Therefore, we believe economically weaker sections require all possible assistance but through a more proactive and tailor-made approach. Similarly, we need to address the broader gender-based marginalisation as well, in addition to existing caste-based provisions. Social and economic justice go hand in hand and we are committed to both.
This is the first poll the RJD is not attacking the PM. Have you moved past your father’s slogans of social justice and secularism, and played up development to take on Nitish?
We don’t need to attack anyone. The failures of the current regime are visible, and more importantly, are being felt by everyone. Social justice and secularism are not merely Laluji’s slogans. They are enshrined in the Constitution of India so there is no question of moving past them.
When Nitish Kumar talks of your inexperience or alleges corruption against you, you say he didn’t say this when you were Deputy CM. But that holds true for you, when you accuse him now.
I don’t do the politics of accusations and allegations. If I say something, I always substantiate with facts. Despite all machinations at their disposal, both at the Centre and state, they couldn’t find even an iota of evidence against me.
Will the RJD reach out to the JD(U) and LJP in case of a Hung House?
We already have a strong coalition in place and we are sure of doing well.
What is the advice you are getting from your father who has been watching election news very keenly?
We remain committed to his vision of justice and equality. He has asked us to work hard and make sure we quickly and decisively work for the betterment of everyone in Bihar without fear or favour.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines