‘If it is a question of the first Dalit PM,then why not Ram Vilas Paswan?’https://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/if-it-is-a-question-of-the-first-dalit-pm-then-why-not-ram-vilas-paswan/

‘If it is a question of the first Dalit PM,then why not Ram Vilas Paswan?’

Be it the Manmohan Singh-led UPA or the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA,<B><font color="#cc000">Ram Vilas Paswan</font></B> has always been allotted a key ministry. In this interview with <B>The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief</B> <B><font color="#cc000">Shekhar Gupta</font></B> on NDTV 24x7’s Walk the Talk,Paswan claims that the UPA will be back in power with Manmohan Singh as its PM. He dismisses Mayawati’s prime ministerial candidature and predicts that the Third Front will fall apart even before the Lok Sabha election

Welcome to Walk The Talk. I’m Shekhar Gupta and my guest today,not only Sonia Gandhi’s next door neighbour but also somebody who’s been in every Cabinet of every part and coalition since 1996 and will most likely be in any Cabinet that comes into being as a result of this election also. The man who personifies the power of the small party with a small votebank but a solid votebank. Ram Vilas Paswan welcome to walk the talk.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: Am I right in saying that no cabinet can be formed without you?

Ram Vilas Paswan: No,you’re right,you always right.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: Not without you,not without the PMK..These maybe small parties but this has empowered you people.

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Ram Vilas Paswan:It is not about the party ,it is the question of a votebank . The LJP has its own votebank and that votebank is such that whatever party it joins,the graph of that party rises straight away from 0 to 100. The same is the case with both the PMK and DMK.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: Even though you may have few seats,you command great leverage with the bigger parties

Ram Vilas Paswan: You were there in the last assembly election when we had said that there should be a Muslim CM in Bihar and even on that slogan we got 15 per cent of the vote. This implies that 15 per cent of our vote is a transferable vote. 15 per cent is not a small amount.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: This is the power of a leader with transferable votes.

Ram Vilas Paswan: Those leaders who have a transferable vote are the real leaders.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: And by this criteria the weakest are the BJP and Congress,both don’t have transferable votes

Ram Vilas Paswan: That I can’t say

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: You can say that about the BJP atleast because if you enter a coalition with them,as Mayawati always makes the case against allying with them since she says that the BJP and Congress votes are not transferable but the local leader or caste leader’s vote is transferable.

Ram Vilas Paswan: But the transferability of Mayawati’s vote is confined to UP. Apart from UP she is struggling to get votes so where is the question of it being transferable? Whatever results have been there whether in the Assembly or LS..

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: But even then in UP it is transferable.

Ram Vilas Paswan: Yes,it is so in UP,her caste vote is transferable.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: What kind of a government do you think will be formed this time around? Will it again be a government where parties with 3,4,5 seats will have a lot of clout and the government will be formed on the basis of a transferable vote? Adding up small numbers to achieve the big one..

Ram Vilas Paswan: The situation that is prevailing will by and large continue . The UPA will form the government,NDA is far from being in the reckoning since if a body is headless,it has no significance.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: How is it headless? The BJP is heading it.

Ram Vilas Paswan: The BJP has no future ,the BJP is disintegrating,it is heading towards its demise,the BJD has also deserted it. The plus point that has been there so far that no UPA constituent has deserted it but the NDA allies are deserting the BJP . Moreover,in the UPA,particularly the Congress,there is no bickering among the leadership . It is unified under Soniaji’s leadership who takes the decisions. However,there is no leader in the BJP after Atalji . There is Advaniji but everyone is raring to undercut his leadership,like yesterday Jaitleyji boycotted the meeting . Sometimes Bhairon Singh Shekhawat is going against the partyline,Kalyan Singh had left the party . Therefore the public perception,which is the biggest factor for a party,of the BJP,the perception that people had of the party a year ago is not there.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: But the BJP has strong leadership in the states.

Ram Vilas Paswan: But right now the fight is for the Centre.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: But you don’t think the state leadership will be able to procure votes for the party? They also have their votebank.

Ram Vilas Paswan: They will be able to get votes but I think there’s a difference between getting votes and procuring enough votes to be in a position to form a government.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: You have worked with the BJP ,you were in the Vajpayee cabinet,where did you think the party went wrong?

Ram Vilas Paswan: Until the BJP harps on the Mandir issue on the Ram issue,Ram knows who his real devotees are,Ram will only be their nemesis because Sita haran had been done by Ravana not in his own garb but in the garb of a saint. These people are donning the garb of saints,wearing the Ramnaam chaadar and abducting Sita and are suffering losses and this will only lead to their (political) demise . KAATH KI HAARI BAAR BAAR NAHIN CHADHTA HAI. They should take up the issue of development and leave the Hindutva plank ,the Ram issue,the Mandir issue. They should take up issues that affect the common man.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: Did you discuss this matter with Atalji when you were part of his cabinet?

Ram Vilas Paswan: Wedefinitely discusse the matter and he was convinced. We joined hands with Atalji for two reasons,one was Bihar where we were fighting with the RJD at the time,the people of Bihar desired a change of government. Secondly we were convinced that Atalji is against the RSS. His Lahore bus diplomacy,his assertion that secularism is the soul of the country and then his National Highway Development programme to link the entire country,we then felt that the Mandir issue had been left behind but then Gujarat happened.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: Your repeated mention of the development of roads leads one to conclude that what you liked most about Atalji was his attempt to build roads

Ram Vilas Paswan: Yes,that and the Lahore bus diplomacy

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: But Ram Vilasji,though it was not your department but building of roads was one area that went to pieces under your government,you cannot rid yourself of that charge.

Ram Vilas Paswan: I feel that the amount of allocation that was given by this government for this scheme and rural development is unequalled

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: But no money was utilized for developing highways so what’s the use of that allocation?. Have you ever taken up this issue in the Cabinet that the pace of highway development has slackened?

Ram Vilas Paswan: The first thing you are answerable for in the Cabinet is how efficiently you are running the Department under you,so criticising the performance of another department

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: But you agree that there has been a setback in this field?

Ram Vilas Paswan: You people are better placed to judge that

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: There is still some time to go for the parliamentary elections..do you think the political equations are changing,is your coalition under threat from some quarters,is there a possibility of a dramatic change or do you think that the lines have been drawn?

Ram Vilas Paswan: The lines have already been drawn . The writing on the wall is that the UPA will come back to power ,this third front,fourth front is not going anywhere.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: But these days there’s a lot of hype surrounding the third front

Ram Vilas Paswan: What is the Third front? Add or take away Mulayam Singh from it . CHK Take the current Third Front ,nobody can predict Mayawati’s course of action,the same goes for Jayalalithaa and the biggest factor is that all the leaders in the front are aspiring to be prime minister,Mayawati,Jayalalithaa,Deve Gowda,Chandrababu Naidu,I cannot talk of the Left,that you will be more aware of.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: You have passed on knowing the intentions of the Left to me! They have been your allies.

Ram Vilas Paswan: The fact is that only one person will become PM. In the UPA we are very clear,where is the vacancy for the prime ministerial slot? UPA will come to power with the Congress as the single-largest party and the Congress has already declared Manmohan Singh as its candidate so there’s no vacancy. Mayawati and Jayalalithaa did not attend the Bangalore (Tumkur) rally and Mayawati is demanding that she be declared the Front’s PM candidate first

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: But there is a projection of Mayawati..

Ram Vilas Paswan: There are 543 seats and say you get 20-40 seats in which case only two things are possible. Either the leader of the single-largest party will be PM or there will be a consensus candidate. What consensus can be generated in favour of the mad elephant (BSP’s election symbol)?

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: If there is a chance of the first Dalit PM coming to power,you will not extend your support to her?

Ram Vilas Paswan: If it is a question of the first Dalit becoming the PM,then why not Ram Vilas Paswan,who you yourself said has been part of every Cabinet since 1996 and has turned in a stellar performance in whatever Ministry he has been part of and there is not a single person who can allege an instance of corruption worth a single penny against him. So there are a lot of contenders if the question is that of the first Dalit PM but I’ve already said that where is the vacancy for the slot? Everyone is making tall claims about installing this or that person in the PM’s chair but the post is taken.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: By Dr Manmohan Singh

Ram Vilas Paswan: Yes

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: You entertain no doubts on that score?

Ram Vilas Paswan: I have not a trace of doubt that the Congress-led UPA will form the government and Dr Manmohan Singh will be PM.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: And you as a coalition partner have any problems with Manmohan Singh?

Ram Vilas Paswan: Nothing. He is a man with a squeaky-clean image,he has no record of ever having interfered with any Ministry ,he looks after the PMO ensuring that there is no corruption or wrongdoing in its functioning. Otherwise the kind of freedom that has been given to Ministers in his government is something I have not seen except in VP Singh’s government but

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: And you think the country is ready to vote Dr Manmohan Singh back to power?

Ram Vilas Paswan: The country is ready,the people will obviously vote for the party in Manmohan Singhji and Soniajis name

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&#149;Shekhar Gupta: Some of your coalition members like Sharad Pawar are not ready to endorse Manmohan Singh openly ,they still claim that anyone can become PM ,why not a candidate from Maharashtra? Why not me they say.

Ram Vilas Paswan: That is a different question,why the PM cannot be from Maharashtra or Bihar..

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: Why only from Assam?

Ram Vilas Paswan: The country comprises different states and every state has its aspirations..

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: What they are implying is that the question of the Prime Ministerial candidate has not yet been settled in the UPA.

Ram Vilas Paswan: Whether it is settled or not,what is the drawback in the PM we are currently working under? The question of change comes up only if there is a shortcoming in the incumbent. What is the minus point in Manmohan Singh?

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: People bring up the issue of his health.

Ram Vilas Paswan: As far as health is concerned it is something that comes and goes,it is hardly an issue. Manmohan Singh has had a heart operation earlier too and continued to attend Cabinet meetings until the day he was admitted to hospital

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: And heart treatment has vastly improved.

Ram Vilas Paswan: Yes,it has become a minor treatment now,it is not a big problem.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: Everyone is moving around with a stent or two! You too.

Ram Vilas Paswan: I also have one after the angioplasty

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: The current hype surrounding the Third Front in the media and Mayawati’s becoming PM,wherever you go,people are asking whether Mayawati will become PM ,will this hurt Mayawati’s chances or prove to be an advantage for her?

Ram Vilas Paswan: Nobody is saying this except Mayawati herself and a section of people saying this at her behest. A person who’s name has been bandied about so much as a candidate for PM can never make it to the post. The next PM will be Manmohan Singh,though I have no idea what will happen in the next election.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: But the purpose behind Mayawati’s projection as PM is to galvanise the Dalit voters across the country

Ram Vilas Paswan: There is no such wave among Dalits.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: You are also a Dalit leader,in the event of a very good performance you will get 10 to 12 seats but if Mayawati’s party performs well she may get about 50 seats.

Ram Vilas Paswan: What difference does it make whether she gets 20,30 or even 50 seats. Take the Bhadohi by-poll for instance,the Dalits themselves voted her out,the Pasis did not vote for her. The Manuwaad that she has been railing against uptill now,she now wants to become PM with the backing of those very Manuwaadis,so her base vote is getting alienated. In the coming election she will struggle to get even half of the 50 seats that you say she might win.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: Are you on friendly terms with her. Have you met her?

Ram Vilas Paswan: The time that Kanshiram and I were in BAMCEF (CHECK),she used to keep following him

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: What do you have to say about her as a leader?

Ram Vilas Paswan: She does not have the potential to lead,the only thing that has gone in her favour is that she has inherited a niche already carved out by Kanshiram ,it’s like I have been living at 12 Janpath for the last 20 years but I have never felt it is my house since I did not build it. The LJP is something I have nurtured so I have feelings for it,it is my house . This house was Kanshiram’s,not Mayawati’s . If it had remained with Kanshiramthen the way Mayawati abused Manuwada and then went ad sat in itslap to nurture her ambition ,this sheershasan (turnaround) would not have happened. She is the powerbroker,out to get power at any cost.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: You claim that there is no possibility of the Third Front coming to power.

Ram Vilas Paswan: None whatsoever,

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: This even I agree with ,even if the Third Front gets say 150 setas it cannot form a government without the Congress’ support.

Ram Vilas Paswan: Why will the Congress support it,if the UPA gets a majority then why would it support anyone else?

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: But what if that does not happen?

Ram Vilas Paswan: Prior to giving this interview I spent last night making working out the political arithmetic . There is no way the UPA is falling short of the numbers ,though the numbers of the UPA allies may decrease or increase,on balnce the UPA will increase its seats.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: The straegy of te Third Front is that win 150-145 seats and the UPA falls shrt and theyt ten approach the Congress with the rationale that a secular government must come to power and the BJP kept out.

Ram Vilas Paswan: That is only their wish and not the real state of affairs.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: Why don’t you tell the Congress to come right out and say that no matter what,it will not support the Third Front.

Ram Vilas Paswan: Why should the Congress give the Front more importance than is due to it by making such an announcement? The Congress should not say so because the moment it does so,it amounts to recognising the Third Front . hen there is no front,look at the Left. In Kerala the CPM is singing a different tune,the CPI another ,the situation in West Bengal is for all to see. So where will the 150 seats come from?

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: Why are stalwarts like Deve Gowda,Chandra Babu Naidu projecting Mayawati?

Ram Vilas Paswan: Nobody is projecting her,they’re all busy projecting themselves ,had it not been for the cover of the Third Front the would have had nthing to do with each other. They’re merely trying to get the media’s attention

&#149;Shekhar Gupta:Using Mayawati’s ..So how long will the Third Front last/ Will it last till the election?

Ram Vilas Paswan: I think it will fall apart before the election ,they will go their separate ways.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: The Left is a strength of the Third Front,they’re intelligent,educated with a clean image and have a hold in two states,they work as a glue to hold the front together . So Mayawati’s personality and the poliical acumen of the Left and the solidity of the Left is definitely a strength

Ram Vilas Paswan: If the Left was so shrewd why are they confined to two states since Independence,They’re there in Bengal and hold power intermittently in Kerala and have been in power in Tripura for sometime ,so that is not the case. As far the issue of personality is concerned,te BSP has come to power due to a negative vote . The anti-mulayam Singh movement which all the parties undertook and in which V PSingh played the most important role taking the Noida issue . So the anti-incmbency factor came up and the beneficiary of that was not just Mayawati but also Nitish Kumar who doesn’t have a majority of the vote of his own caste . Even Amrinder Singh reaped that advantage as did Dhumal

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: You have given a tickey to V PSingh’s son as well

Ram Vilas Paswan: Yes we have given him a ticket from Fatehpr and he’s joined the party and through your programme we appeal to all parties ,because the SP has never won that seat,the Two time sitting BSP MP has a very poor image in the eyes of the public . So whethwer it is Mulayam Singh Yadav or Lalu Yadav or Nitish Kumar they’re all VPSingh’s protégés and consider him their guru. Today his son is standing fr election and we appeal to Congress and SP,we will not appeal to the BJP nor BSP ,to leave that seat and after their deposits are forfeited Ajay Pratap Singh ji will win from Fatehpur

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: So you’re saying that the UPA will win and that the Third Front cannot be formed without Congress support?

Ram Vilas Paswan: My analysis maybe wrong but I think there will be no need for the UPA to solicit support from the Third Front

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: What I’m saying is that if there is a chance of a Thrid Front government coming to power..it will need Congress support

Ram Vilas Paswan: But how can that chance come about UPA wil et a majorty on its own and then the Third Front does not come into the picture

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: And should you ever be in need of support are you confident tthat the Left will support the UPA again?

Ram Vilas Paswan: If the Left has to choose between the NDA and UPA ,I think they will prefer the UPA.

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: Are you sorry that the Keft parted ways with the UPA?

Ram Vilas Paswan: I am definitely sorry that that happened but when were unable to take a decision,the Lft used to say and there is even a sayibg that the animal that dies is the one that connot dcide whether to turn left or righ ton the road . They will have to take a decision wether before or after the polls that you will be with the NDA or the UPA

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: But were you surprise that the reak with the Left came in the 5th year of the UPA’s tenure?

Ram Vilas Paswan: Yes,we were together for four yers and as far as the nuvclear deal was concerned ,it is not an issue which suddenly sprang up,the issue had been around for a while . But I think they had their own compulsions as the elections were approaching nad both had to fight the elections separately in West Bengal and Kerala,it was obvious that they would notbe able to pull together

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: So it was a political compulsion?

Ram Vilas Paswan: Whatever the reasons behind the decision,it was a ad one for both sides,the Left as well as the UPA

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: And the Third Front is basically to cut into UPA votes

Ram Vilas Paswan: Yes now the Left has taken up the mantle of launching the Third Front ,they should concerate on making the Left Front more cohesive rather than trying to launch the Third Front. Who is in the Left Front,Chandrababu Naidu who was in the NDA,Jyalalithaa who was in the NDA,they were all going in different diretions ,why are you opening a Pandor’as’ box. What wgood will that do? Even if assume that a government is formed under the Third Front,what direction will it take. I can understand what direction the Left Front will go in

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: They will say it’s a Left and democratic Front,a Left-of-centre front

Ram Vilas Paswan: Where is the ideology of the Left? How amny of them adhere to the Left ideology,Do Jayalalithaa or does Mayawati have it?

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: Deve Gowda?

Ram Vilas Paswan: Deve Gowda carries the old Congress culture,ather it was old socilaits who were closer to the Leftideology ,that is wh this will not work

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: No matter what you say,the next government will be a sort of Pandora’sbx borne f many permutations and combimations

Ram Vilas Paswan: The UPA can be likened to a house with namy different rooms inside it ut it cannot have rooms built of different material and pulling in different directions

&#149;Shekhar Gupta: Whatever kind of house is built,one very nice room with a nice portfolio will be under Ram Vilas Paswan ,you are goibg into the election so good luck abd I’ll see ypu on the campaign trail.

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Ram Vilas Paswan: Thank you . I request you to come to Bihar. Thankyou.

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