A day after 49 constituencies voted in the first of the five-phase poll contest in Bihar, recording a turnout of 57 per cent, BJP national spokesperson and former Union minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain talks to SANTOSH SINGH about Modi as the BJP’s Virat Kohli and the scramble for the CM’s post in the party.
People voted enthusiastically in the first phase. Muslims, youth and women turned out in big numbers. How do you read the turnout?
Voters have come out in big numbers to reinstate their faith in Narendra Modi. After a prolonged spell of the Congress, RJD and JD(U) under Nitish Kumar, people see the BJP as a viable option. In this election, all three parties have come together only against Modi. Many people who were not able to vote freely until now are coming out to show their support for the NDA.
Seats with a substantial Muslim population, like Tarapur in Munger, saw heavy polling. Does it indicate communal polarisation?
It is a myth that Muslims do not vote for the BJP. Though I lost the Lok Sabha elections, I had got a substantial number of Muslim votes. Muslims are reassured of Narendra Modi’s leadership and believe nothing wrong can happen to them so long as Modi is around. In his speech, the PM had said (in Nawada last week) that Muslims should decide whether they want to fight Hindus or poverty and similarly, Hindus should decide whether they want to fight Muslims or poverty. That line made our campaign easy. It is Lalu Prasad who has been invoking communalism. We are getting votes from all sections. The six per cent surge is in our favour.
Don’t you think the Dadri incident and the beef controversy has hurt the BJP’s development plank?
The Dadri incident is unfortunate and this is not how a civilised society should protest. For our culture that believes in plurality and tolerance, this incident is a blot. It’s not just the government that should protect Muslims. It is the responsibility of the society to sustain and protect all communities. The Dadri incident has no bearing on Bihar. Nitish and Lalu will never succeed in dividing Bihar on communal lines. As for the development plank, it remains our prime agenda — the PM’s speeches are proof of that.
You have been in news for either bringing up your name for the CM’s post or that of other leaders in the party.
Am I the party’s spokesperson or my spokesperson? I have said over a thousand times that it is the BJP parliamentary board that will decide the CM candidate. I have never dropped anyone’s name. I am just telling voters that if you elect ‘X’ leader, he will become a bada aadmi (big man). I am not in the CM race, not even remotely. I am the last person to entertain such thoughts, par jab survey mein charcha hoti hai to ye mere liye badi baat hai (it means a lot when surveys talk of me as a potential CM)”.
There has been talk in the BJP of other potential CMs. The party is rallying behind Dinara candidate Rajendra Singh. Is he the Manohar Lal Khattar of Bihar?
Rajendra Singh has been a very able organisation man. He has his own following and people love him and work for him like they do for many other candidates. As I said earlier, the party will discuss the CM candidate after the elections. Our priority is to win the polls by a convincing margin.
Don’t you think the NDA campaign has become Modi-centric, sometimes at the expense of state BJP leaders and even NDA partners?
Narendra Modi is like our Virat Kohli in excellent form. We use our best player. But all our leaders are campaigning and drawing crowds. Nitish Kumar has been unnecessarily talking about Modi as ‘bahari (outsider)’. In the past, Vajpayee too has campaigned in Bihar. Was he an outsider?