Being a chief ministerial candidate is not an entitlement but a responsibility to transform Bihar, according to RJD president and Leader of Opposition in Bihar Assembly Tejashwi Yadav. He spoke to Manoj C G on several issues, including the JD(U)-BJP government’s tackling of the pandemic, migrants and his party’s agenda for the upcoming Bihar elections. Excerpts:
What are the main issues that your party will raise in Assembly elections?
Since last week of March, our entire focus was on coordinating relief for the poor particularly the migrant workforce. We tried to reach out to them with whatever resources we had. During the course of such a human crisis caused by the pandemic, elections did not cross our mind. However, we know the reality of electoral politics and in coming elections we are going to offer a completely new blueprint for the radical transformation in education, health and agriculture. We shall offer a transparent employment guarantee scheme in every sector. We are going to share our plans for development of each of the regions of Bihar in view of local specifics. We shall also focus on women and girls’ safety so that heinous crimes such as the Muzaffarpur shelter home case do not happen ever again. Our promises shall have a commitment with a given timeline.
On 15 years of Nitish Kumar vs 15 Years of Lalu Prasad Yadav debate?
It is very intriguing and amusing that honourable Chief Minister (Nitish Kumar) still talks of 15 years of RJD rule which got over in 2005, whereas he should be putting forth his achievements of last 15 years. Half of his ministers and legislators are those who were part of that 15 years. And in the failure to flag off his achievements lies his gross failure on multiple fronts. I am going into this election with a clean slate telling people of Bihar that if any mistake was committed during the period when RJD was in power, I apologise. I have said it earlier and I repeat. Unlike JD(U) and BJP, RJD is going with a positive agenda with promises and commitment to every section of society. On a different note, I think if Nitish-ji does an honest analysis he would also realize the peculiar and unique challenges between the period 1990 and 2005. Can he deny that several milestones of social justice were achieved? Can any political observer deny that a radical shift was attained in the very character of politics and political participation? It indeed was a period which translated the idea of the deepening of democracy on the ground.
Charges by opponents that RJD is casteist and promotes Muslim-Yadav at the expense of others?
It is all propaganda. We have given opportunity to everyone. After the coalition, obviously we could not contest in all the seats and our ability to fully adhere to social composition became limited…but we have tried to give representation to all. We became the single largest party only because we got the support of all communities. If you look at Nitish-ji, all their leaders occupying key posts are from his community. If you look at recruitment, most have gone to one district and one caste….May be we have not satisfied everyone…but we will learn from mistakes and move forward… but has Nitish-ji apologised for the 55 scams in 15 years…gangrape of children, bad law and order, unemployment. And what is the point in taking the debate back to 15 years or 20 years or 30 years. Don’t talk about Akbar’s time or British time or Sher Shah Suri’s…talk about your rule..baar baar aap propaganda chalaoge, dar dikhaoge, apni baat na karke pehle ki baat karoge…us se koi bhala hone wala nahin hain…Nitish-ji used to say he will not comprise with three Cs – communalism, crime and corruption. And he has compromised on all three.
Impact of coronavirus crisis and migrant issue?
We are shocked to observe the colossal failure of the government to respond to the public health crisis. The response has been laid back, kneejerk and lacked sensitivity and seriousness. This is going to be an issue that needs a response. We will make the government accountable for its lapses. When it comes to the issue of migrants, let me tell you for us, they are not migrants. They are our people, their hard work, their toil and their remittances are valued in the family, community and the state. Unfortunately, they were left high and dry and treated with indignity. Bihar was probably the only state from where the government didn’t bother to bring them back safely, rather they created all obstacles to not allow our own people to get back home. The government of the day has to pay the price for the humiliation and misery experienced by our own people. This is going to be a major issue in the election.
Will you reach out to Ram Vilas Paswan whose LJP is said to be unhappy with Nitish Kumar?
During election time lots of things happen. I consider these developments as exclusively within the domain of NDA camp and would not like to comment on it as of now.
What is your advice to Paswan?
In spite of being apart politically, he is like a guardian to me and I would refrain from giving any advice to him. He and my father have a very long association through different struggles and I would leave it there with those fond memories I have heard from my parents.
Your projection as CM face has not amused smaller parties in the Mahagathbandhan.
Such reported postures through ‘sources’ in fact matches the election time climate and the need for some news. Let me put it straight that it is not monarchy that I decided to name myself. Parties do need to listen to the voices coming from ground and our support base and cadre made continuous representation for over the last two years to the central leadership of the party. Wouldn’t it be unfair to the sentiments? However, I see being the ‘CM face’ not as an entitlement but a responsibility to transform Bihar by utilizing its potential.
Is it non-negotiable?
Obviously, RJD is the single largest party. We have most of the vote bank. If you look percentage wise.
The RJD has not been very vocal on the Chinese incursion in Ladakh. Why?
First of all, let me correct this wrong perception. Right from the day when the first news of Chinese activities at LAC was reported, we were probably one of the first parties which demanded an all-party meeting and a committed session of the parliament. We were the first one to say that the country and its government should not be perceived as synonymous. We were the ones who after saluting the bravery of our martyred jawans said that their martyrdom has left a series of questions that need to be addressed on a priority… We have been repeating that the problem is never with our brave soldiers but the manner in which we have put our thought to the diplomatic initiative particularly vis-à-vis China.