The Indian Express speaks to leaders of four parties which are touched by the latest political storm.
Nitish Kumar, who wanted a Sangh-mukt Bharat, has now become Sangh-yukt. How did it happen?
The biggest tragedy is that the product of JP movement, Lalu Prasad, born in poverty, could undo the entire legacy of JP in such a manner by becoming one of the biggest patrons of corruption. If you open the folders, you will see that Nitish Kumar came with us in the first fight against the corruption of Lalu Prasad in the fodder scam. The fight against Lalu Prasad and the fodder scam has become the defining moment for Bihar. In that fight, Nitishji was completely with us. Do not forget that he was the first to join the BJP in 1995, worked in the Vajpayee government as a very competent minister and nearly eight years in the Bihar government with BJP’s support. Nitishji has worked more with us than Lalu Prasad.
Has his DNA changed in the last two years (In 2015, PM Modi, while attacking Nitish Kumar at a rally in Muzaffarpur, had said that it seemed that there was “some problem with Nitish Kumar’s DNA” referring to the frequent change of his political allegiance)
No. One thing that I know of Nitish Kumar is his stand on probity and propriety in public life. In case of the big expose of Lalu Prasad’s family, it became evident to him that governance is impossible and that development has taken a back seat because of this. When you talk of DNA, you must go to the previous DNA too because he was with us for more than 17-18 years. Let’s talk about the DNA of this alliance, on the issue of probity and fight against corruption, the quest for good governance and development. Nitish has said it was impossible for him to rule the state.
BJP kept talking about Nitish humiliating BJP and Prime Minister Modi. Have you forgiven him?
In politics, you don’t go by forgiving. It is a question of understanding. On Wednesday, he spoke about Lalu Prasad’s corruption saying that “my conscience was pricking me”. We openly extended our support and he willingly accepted. There is a strong commonality in our attitude towards corruption.
Has Nitish’s return upset a section of BJP leaders in Bihar?
We will talk about it if someone has issues. But they must see what he brings to the table. Today BJP is ruling nearly 68 per cent of India. All the major states of north India, except Punjab, are with us. After the next election, Himachal Pradesh too will come to us. It also administers a serious dent to the Grand Alliance anti-BJP politics
What is the biggest gain, getting one state or thrashing the Opposition?
The first gain for us is Bihar’s development. Second is the consolidation of the anti-corruption political space. Most players of Grand Alliance, either individually or as a party, are under cloud. In the India of 2017, you cannot have a political coalition only on the basis of the fear of Narendra Modi and BJP.
Nitish Kumar has attained the stature of a national leader. What would be his role in national politics under Modi?
You should not forget that in 1998, 98,and 2004 elections under Vajpayeeji, he was a valuable colleague. In 2009, when Advani was PM candidate, he was a valuable ally. I am sure he will play the same role. He heads a small party, but he is a significant leader.
Will the JD(U) be a part of central government?
It is something that Prime Minister Modi and the national leadership of the party has to decide.
Why yesterday? What happened?
The patience of Nitish Kumar snapped. Because Lalu Prasad was not ready to explain despite the corruption stories of his families becoming public.
What’s in store in future for Bihar and the alliance? More funds and programmes?
Our Prime Minister has taken a clear view that without the development of eastern India, development of India is not possible. Obviously, there will be greater synergy between the state and the Centre when it comes to development of Bihar.
Who would be gaining out of this new alliance?
It will be NDA’s gain. It will be a great devaluation of the great concept of Grand Alliance. You must remember we are ruling 17 states not by charity but because of the trust people have in us.