Updated: September 14, 2015 1:02:37 am
C P Joshi, Congress general secretary in charge of Bihar, discusses the prospects of the Congress-RJD-JD(U) alliance in Bihar, why the election has become a referendum on the working style of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and explains what Lalu Prasad means when he promises Mandal raj 2. Excerpts from an interview.
How different is the Bihar election this time?
The context is simple. After Narendra Modi became prime minister, the way he started governing the country has created an impression that he believes more in keeping power in his hands, not strengthening parliamentary democracy. In parliamentary democracy, there is a specific role for a number of institutions… In states, the chief minister’s role is different from that of the prime minister.
So is the Bihar election a referendum on the PM’s style of functioning?
The PM himself has opted for that course… He intends (to make it a referendum) because he is saying that there is no chief minister candidate… All the time if you are going there and putting yourself as the candidate, then automatically you are thrusting it, which is in a way negation to that extent of parliamentary democracy.
What is the long term gain for the Congress in this alliance, where it is a minor partner of the JD(U) and the RJD?
Not at all… We have a presence in the entire state. In 2010, we contested against the RJD, the LJP, the JD(U) and the BJP in all 243 seats. And we got 9 per cent votes.
Is this a short-term strategy?
Naturally, when you have 9 per cent votes and you have to emerge as a major party you will have to change your strategy. We took a stand against the leadership of Narendra Modi and the communal ideology propagated by him. We stood with the persons who are close to our ideology. We may not endorse it 100 per cent but there is no doubt that Nitish took a stand against the BJP ideology. The credentials of Lalu Prasad are known; he took a stand right from the beginning. To that extent, Congress, Lalu and Nitish share a wavelength.
Those two parties fought against each other for years. Do you expect their cadre to sink their differences?
By and large, JD(U) constituents are old Janata Dal constituents. There is no big difference and problem when it comes to integration of workers.
But aren’t there castes that nurse a grudge against one another, say Yadavs and Kurmis?
Before the Patna rally, there was a meeting of district presidents of the JD(U), the RJD and the Congress at Nitish’s home. Then at district level, all three constituents held a meeting of block-level workers. And when people came for the rally, their vehicles had all three flags. This is all part of integration of workers at the ground level. It has already taken place.
Wasn’t Lalu’s playing the caste card at the rally when he spoke against upper castes?
Not like that. Historically, when the political space shifted from the general masses to OBCs, it was Lalu who was representing the OBCs. When Lalu became chief minister, people may have said his followers came to represent jungle raj and all that, but what do you mean by jungle raj? For 15 years he empowered people who had otherwise been deprived of a role in decision-making. And look, one of the fellows who was with him, Nitish Kumar, became chief minister and he delivered. Now we see Nitish Kumar, representing OBCs, give a good administration… It is not jungle raj, it is an extension of the empowerment that took place under the leadership of Lalu.
But Lalu spoke about Mandal raj 2.
In Mandal raj 2, there is scope for the poor person of the upper caste too. Whether it is Brahmin, Bumihar, Rajput, Vaishya… the poor of these communities too have to be empowered.
Will the upper castes in Bihar buy this argument?
Just see. This is what Nitish Kumar has announced, a number of programmes and schemes that cater to the needs of the poor sections of the upper caste.
How will the outcome of Bihar impact the national political scene?
Every citizen will have to think one the lines that in a parliamentary democracy what is the role of the prime minister, what is the role of the party and voices of dissent… Within the BJP also there is serious discontentment. There are a number of senior leaders who are not participating in decision making. The outcome will have an impact within the ruling party as also on the national opposition. The entire polity of the country will change.
Will Rahul Gandhi share the stage with Lalu Prasad?
Why not? Lalu and the Congress were together in the parliamentary election.
But they never shared the stage
In an election, that is part of strategy. So whenever we feel, Lalu, Nitish, Rahul or Soniaji will share the stage. That is part of our strategy. When for a common cause and goal we are working together, why should there be any hitch?
What about differences within your party? Many senior leaders held meetings in Delhi on seats and candidates. The PCC is carrying out a similar exercise in Patna.
To involve all senior leaders, we are taking feedback from them. I myself have asked all ex-Congress presidents to give their individual lists. So we are involving all important leaders so that we identify the best seats and the best candidates… Our stakes are very high. We have to select the best candidate who represent the feelings of the workers.
Have you identified the seats to contest?
When we negotiated the number, broadly we discussed the seats also. But fine-tuning will take place. We will go by the merit of the seats. Sitting together we will resolve the issue.
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