With the seven-phase election in Bihar drawing to a close, how is the NDA placed?
We are supremely confident about returning to power with the BJP getting a majority of its own (at the Centre). Talking about Bihar, the last two Lok Sabha elections show that our alliance is about 10 per cent ahead of the Opposition. In 2014, NDA got about 38 per cent votes and RJD-Congress had about 28 per cent. Now that the JD(U) is with us, we will be well placed despite the Grand Alliance’s claims of having done well.
But doesn’t the social combination of the Grand Alliance worry you, especially since the RJD and Congress have got the RLSP, HAM(S) and VIP to their side?
All these three parties were part of the NDA. We had given 20 plus seats each to Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM(S) and Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP in the 2015 Assembly elections but they were not able to transfer votes to us and could only win one and two seats respectively. We had also tested Mukesh Sahni (of VIP) in the 2014 elections. Only a few parties can transfer votes — parties like RJD and JD(U) can. We agree that there could be some split votes here and there but it may not translate into results (in favour of the Grand Alliance). We have a much better and proven social combination with allies JD(U) and LJP.
Lok Sabha Elections 2019 | Polling schedule, results date, constituency-wise election results, key candidates
In 2004, the BJP’s India Shining campaign had backfired. Are there moments when you fear a repeat of that?
There is a difference between 2004 and 2019. Then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had not been keeping well and could not do aggressive campaigning because of his knee surgeries. There had been issues with the RSS as well. But current PM Narendra Modi had done some very aggressive campaigning and we have perfect synergy with the RSS. We are fully confident about ourselves. Anyway, it’s just a matter of a few days now (for the results).
The BJD recently praised the Centre. Is the BJP still looking for potential allies?
I am focussed on Bihar and I am not the right person to answer this. But in politics, one never knows who will go with whom. We have already worked with the BJD and also the Trinamool Congress.
Your alliance partner JD(U) has started talking about special category status for the state all over again. Is this pressure tactics?
The 14th Finance Commission report had ruled out Bihar’s case. JD(U) leader KC Tyagi has said they would wait for the 15th Finance Commission report. Bihar has got adequate funds from the Centre. Special category status has been an old demand of the JD(U) and it is well within its rights to talk about it and pursue it.
Nitish Kumar seems to be uncomfortable with the BJP playing up nationalism.
Too much is being read into a video clip from the PM’s Darbhanga function in which he chants Vande Mataram. What do you have to say about the Parliament session beginning with Vande Mataram and concluding with Vande Mataram? I do not see any discomfort in the JD(U). Rather, JD(U) workers have been chanting Vande Mataram with more vigour.
National security is another of the BJP’s platforms this election.
We are talking about development in great detail. If you listen to the PM’s 34-minute speech in Buxar on Tuesday, he talked about national security for only four minutes. Anyway, it is a Lok Sabha election and national security is in the Centre’s domain. This is not a panchayat election after all.
You often say Narendra Modi is contesting from every seat. Are you not confident about your candidates?
Even though we do not have a presidential system, some leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Indira Gandhi and Narendra Modi make it seem like one. The NDA has definitely been fighting this election in Narendra Modi’s name. We had played up the leadership of Vajpayee. But Congress could not do so with Manmohan Singh. Nor it can do so with Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi recently said in an interview that the one thing he learnt from PM Modi was how not to run the country. Your comments.
Rahul Gandhi should have, in fact, tried to learn from PM Narendra Modi, who has set an example of hardwork. He has been one of the best performing PMs of our country. Rahul Gandhi has been trying unsuccessfully to tarnish the PM’s image. He tried to do so with the ‘chowkidar chor hai’ jibe but had to later apologise in court.
In retrospect, do you think GST and demonetisation were ill-conceived moves?
Some of our political opponents may well be talking about it but it is not an issue. We successfully contested the Gujarat polls after GST was passed. Not a single decision in the GST Council needed voting; all decisions were taken unanimously. No political party opposed. Also, what’s not often discussed is that price rise is not an issue this general election because we managed to keep prices under control. We should be given due credit for that.
Do you miss Lalu Prasad in this campaign season?
We do miss him. We now have to remind voters about his misrule. His presence could have helped us consolidate anti-RJD votes. He did campaign in the 2009 and 2014 polls but ended up getting only four seats on both occasions.
How do you rate Tejashwi Yadav?
It is up to the people of Bihar to rate him. I am not giving him any rating. But I would like to point out that his elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav will prove to be an RJD leader in the Lalu Prasad mould. He has the flourish and traits of his father. People may dismiss his statements but he shows maturity. The battle of succession in the Lalu family has not ended yet.