LJP president and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan Sunday said the government’s decision to grant 10 per cent reservation to Economically Weaker Sections in general category has helped reignite confidence among NDA allies.
“It is true that we were a bit shaky following BJP’s defeat in the recent Assembly polls but PM Modi trumped the Opposition with the 10 per cent quota move. We appear to have arrested the drift now,” Paswan told the Sunday Express.
He said the RJD’s decision not to support the quota could have well antagonised its upper caste voters and it was showing in the discomfort among the grand alliance in Bihar.
Recalling how earlier governments — VP Singh and PV Narsimha Rao — had implemented quota changes without Constitutional amendments, Paswan said the 10 per cent quota now has the backing of Parliament and would, therefore, stand legal scrutiny.
Paswan on SC/ST Act
Asked whether the BJP government was forced to introduce the quota bill to neutralise upper caste backlash following an ordinance to reverse the Supreme Court order on SC/ST Act, Paswan said: “Maybe. There had been protests from several upper caste groups but it was more due to confusion.
“The NDA government incorporated 25 new sections in the Act bringing in change for the first time since it was passed in 1989… The government carried out several development measures and took strong decisions such as demonetisation and has to take some popular ones in an election year.”
Paswan on Opposition unity
The LJP chief said Opposition parties at the national level are “confused” and the Congress alliance is not shaping up, as was evident in Uttar Pradesh. “In Bihar, the grand alliance has no face. Cobbling together several parties do not make a social combination. Most grand alliance parties are yet to prove themselves”. Paswan said the NDA would contest the 2019 polls with development as its main agenda.
Paswan on Ram temple
Paswan said it was “good of PM Modi to say the dispute could be resolved either by the court or by consensus”, echoing what many in the NDA felt. “We always said that the temple could be constructed either by a court order or by consensus,” he said.
The Union minister, who announced that he will not contest the Lok Sabha polls, also ruled out the candidature of his wife Reena Paswan from his Hajipur seat. Paswan said he now wanted his son Chirag to emerge from his shadow.
“When I visit Hajipur, I see many teary eyes but I have made up my mind to say no to contesting the Lok Sabha polls in the 50th year of my electoral politics. Let Chirag grow strong on his own. How long should he be under a banyan tree?”
LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan’s full-fledged support to NDA government, especially over 10 per cent quota, gives BJP much-needed boost after recent Assembly poll debacle. Paswan, who has been satisfied with its seat-sharing arrangements, believes NDA in Bihar has a winning combination. While BJP and Nitish Kumar look to get support of upper caste, OBC and EBCs and some sections of scheduled caste, Paswan looks to ensure NDA gets majority votes of five per cent Paswan and some other scheduled caste group.
With Manjhi having crossed over to RJD-led Grand Alliance sometime back, Paswan’s utility in NDA gets even more important in NDA’s bid to weave a combination of social extremes in which upper caste and dalit vote together for same political combination. At national level, while Congress has not been able to strike alliance with Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav, LJP remains a vital ally of BJP with proven track record. Its support to 10 per cent quota will further boost BJP with RJD opposing it and attempting backward-forward binary.